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How to Manage a Staff That’s Overworked

How to Manage a Staff That’s Overworked
    overworked from Vinet_ on flickr

    There are few managers out there today who are not coping with this issue.  Many of us are working on departments that are expected to be more productive with a lower headcount.  However, when your staff begins to complain that they’re overworked, you have received a dangerous signal that they are burning out and may look elsewhere when the market improves.

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    Stop the Fire Hose

    A good first step in managing your team’s workload is to sit down with each employee individually and list the tasks they should be completing on a daily basis.  Note who is authorized to delegate work to them, and the type of assignments they should be prepared to accept both from you and your fellow managers.   If there are assignments coming in to the employee that you don’t feel they should be working on, take it up with the other manager so that the employee is not caught in the middle.

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    Help Them Prioritize

    In the event that the employee is overwhelmed with tasks that are in their jurisdiction, help them prioritize the ones that are most important and backburner the others.  Encourage the employee to be open and honest with you about whether or not your expectations and timelines are reasonable.  Make sure they have the tools necessary to do their jobs well, and that you try to clear obstacles from their path.  If the job itself is causing burnout, switch things up as much as you can, and support your staff taking on new and varied responsibilities.

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    Encourage Work/Life Balance

    It helps to reassure your staff that work will always be there, and that they should devote energy to their lives outside of work.  As long as they are getting results, don’t balk if they leave early to hit the gym or take a class.  Don’t forget to model work/life balance as much as you can, because if your employees see that you devote adequate time to your personal life, they will be more likely to follow suit.

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    Provide Appropriate R&R (Rewards and Recognition)

    When your staff is worked to the bone, your first instinct might be to pay them more to keep them going.  In the absence of a formal raise, which may only be given at a certain time of year, you look to the bonus.  Surprisingly, though, most organizational psychologists will tell you that money is not a top employee motivator and that you should make an effort to customize rewards and recognition to the individual.  This might take the form of a comp day or a dinner out on the company, or even just a thoughtful e-mail.

     Celebrate Achievement

    Your reports may be the type to appreciate organization-wide recognition, so consider making use of your company’s “employee of the month” program or annual award ceremony.  If an employee successfully finishes a project, put an announcement on the Intranet site or in the e-newsletter, and plan an impromptu celebration.  Also, build in opportunities to acknowledge everyone on the team by writing down the dates of your employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries and taking time out of the business day to observe them.

    Finally, it can never hurt to stop by your employee’s office every so often and reiterate your thanks for how hard they’ve worked during a hectic time.  By showing that you care about them and vocalizing your appreciation, they will likely continue to perform well and stay loyal to you when the tide turns.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

    More About Stepping Out of Comfort Zone

    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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