Asking for Help When You are Understaffed


Q: I feel like I’m doing all the work in my department. We normally have three people but currently one position is open, and the other position has been given a leave of absence that starts next week. I’m the only one left and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Although I’m not disgruntled I’m simply exhausted and feeling burned out. I love my job and the company is great, but how can I get my boss to understand that he can’t expect everything to get done when it’s just me working?

A: This situation sounds very unusual in that a leave of absence is normally not approved while a department is 1/3 vacant. But if you find yourself in this situation I would evaluate :

  1. How long until the open position gets filled so I can share the workload?
  2. When will the second person return from their leave of absence and pick up their share of the workload?

If you conclude that you expect to be on your own longer than a week or two, then you should   quickly figure out what kind of help you need and then promptly ask your boss for it. I would identify clearly and specifically the type of skills needed (a temp with Microsoft office knowledge) and the amount of time you need them (6 hours/day to complete the following tasks) and the duration (until the open position is filled, and/or until second person returns).

Tips on approaching your boss:

Prioritize Tasks – Don’t assume that he knows everything the department does. So outline a list of all your combined duties and responsibilities. Sit down with your supervisor and prioritize the list.   That way, if something must remain undone due to time constraints, you will know how to choose.

Problem solve first, then do the “ask” – Show up with solutions to offer and confidently ask for what you need. Complaining about your workload, getting defensive or showing your frustration is not as productive as stating the problem facts (2 out of 3 positions are vacant) and the solutions (I need a temp 32hrs/wk).

By any measure, it’s unrealistic for you to be expected to continue the workload of a three person department. I’m sure the company will support you if you approach them with a reasonable plan.

Originally published on HR Box blog.



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