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Unmanageable Work Situation? Here’s One Thing You Can Do.

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

In helping people with their careers and lives, I often hear how clients find themselves in an unmanageable situation. Situations such as they are overloaded with work that’s not within their role or responsibility, they overpromised and undelivered, or weren't true to themselves with what they needed or valued. One of my clients has a history of overextending herself at work. She puts so much energy into doing things right or perfect that she has very little energy for the other things in her life. She has a pattern of burnout and one way to overcome this, other than understanding the root, is to set the tone. What do I mean by setting the tone? I mean to put parameters in place, verbally and nonverbally, about what you will or will not do. Setting the tone could look like only doing what is possible within your work hours and then putting off the rest for the next day or stating the things you'll need in order to effectively do your work. It's understandable we want to put our best selves forward at the beginning of a job, or even a relationship. We want to make a good impression. That's fine, as long as it's sustainable and not an expense to your health and mental and emotional well-being. Establishing expectations tends to be easier at the beginning of a job or career but it can also be addressed later. An organization's culture can make setting parameters more difficult. Presenteeism (the idea of working despite illness or another condition) is a real thing. So is an unrealistic workload and a lot of companies' expectation to stay connected at all hours. This said, I believe you can still set the tone in some ways. It's the idea of teaching people how to treat you. If it's after hours, you can decide to only respond to urgent emails or shut off your phone so you don't even have to make that decision. Now some people like the flexibility of being able to send emails after hours if they are working from home and dealing with kids or other priorities during the day. You can also set the tone that way. This said, I know there is proposed legislation in Ontario for the right to disconnect after hours (some countries like France and Portugal are already implementing it), however, I believe, if you're working from home, you can still share your work hour preferences with your employer if it doesn't align with this potential new law. If you're good at what you do and provide value to your company, you will have more leverage. Most leaders will want to retain good talent. Remember, you are providing a service and have a say. If it's too much and your company is not respecting your parameters, you can always move on and find a better fit. There are companies and organizations who do respect work/life balance. One way you can find out during an interview, and something I wrote in an earlier blog post, is to ask, “Can you tell me about the most successful person you ever hired and what exactly they did to be successful?” This question reveals what the manager is looking for and what you need to do to get promoted. You can always go with something else if it doesn't include some work/life balance. Setting the tone for some people is scary but what's the alternative? Continuing to get imposed upon or expected to work at all hours and burnout? If you do set boundaries, and it's not received well then, again, you can find a better fit. Just like a relationship, feeling valued and authentic in both is important. So, when starting a new job or career or wanting to change an existing work dynamic, think about setting the tone by putting verbal and nonverbal parameters in place. What do you have to lose? Is it more than what it’s costing? Have thoughts or need some guidance with this? Please reach out to me to see if I can support you in some way. Best,

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