Approaching and communicating issues with your boss or supervisor can always be challenging for even the most experienced Project Manager. Finding the right time, the right words and the right solutions so they understand your perspective can be extremely daunting. With regards to the topic of workload, it can be a very loaded subject to address. You don’t want to give the impression of not being hard working. You also don’t want to be viewed as a complainer or incompetent, and risk the chance of missing out on any potential job advancement opportunities. However, to effectively manage your job, you need to find the right balance and get help to successfully manage the demands.
For a Project Manager, a heavy workload can involve overseeing too many projects at one time; having too many close deadlines together; having too many stakeholders to take care of; or having too many issues that require constant fire fighting or demand too much of your attention. Below are a few top ideas to work on to help assist you the next time you have to encounter this situation:
- Make a list of all your projects and how much time each one takes (per week), demonstrating that the total amount reasonably goes above a normal workload of 40-45 hours per week, or whatever “normal” is in your organization. From this, identify a priority list and develop a few suggestions or solutions to reduce the number of emergencies on your plate. Not all projects have the same priority for your management, and they know it ! You just have to figure out “their” priority list so you can remove the other projects (at least temporarily) from your workload.
- Schedule a private meeting with your boss to specifically address your concerns. This isn’t the time to discuss this critical topic casually in the corridors while he or she is passing by. You require his or her full attention and the time to carefully explain your situation and how to resolve it. If you take it seriously, your boss is more likely to as well.
- Carefully chose your words. Be careful about the tone of the conversation and how you explain the challenges. You do not want to come off sounding like you are complaining. Instead, be prepared to propose concrete solutions such as changing deadlines, delegating certain tasks to others, etc. This also forces your boss to propose other solutions (which could be better because he or she obviously has more power and resources in the organization than you). As well, putting a positive spin on it and providing creative and constructive solutions will help elevate your position in the eyes of your boss and also demonstrates your ability to proactively address and assess problem areas and effectively mitigate them.
- Make sure the topics and solutions you discuss are reflected on your yearly MBO and performance objectives so that you are not penalized if your performance deteriorates due to higher than normal workload.
- Schedule follow-up sessions with your boss to monitor the situation. Taking the time to evaluate the situation from time to time will help you determine if the changes made have improved the circumstances, or if additional changes are necessary.
Being open, honest, and addressing your concerns head-on before they can get the better of you, will set you apart. Good managers do understand that workloads need to be effectively managed and adjustments made from time to time. Without you speaking up and clearly identifying problem areas (and offering solutions) how is your boss going to understand your situation?