Office Coach: Comment on workload problem can come off as complaint

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Question: I am the only salesperson in a very small software company. Everyone else seems to have a clear job description that matches their skill set, but I have many responsibilities unrelated to sales. To make matters worse, the owner keeps giving me tasks that I am not qualified to do. For example, he recently asked me to create a company Facebook page, even though I have absolutely no skills in that area.

I would like to respectfully tell my boss that I am overwhelmed and cannot handle all these additional activities, plus my regular sales work. But when I said it seems unfair that I am the only one being given extra tasks, he just told me to stop whining. What should I do now?

Answer: You have apparently made the common mistake of describing a workload problem from your own point of view, emphasizing how tired and stressed you feel. When you added the word "unfair," your boss stopped listening and labeled you as a whiner. To get his attention, you must stop talking about yourself and start talking about the business.

For example: "I'm concerned that we may be missing some sales opportunities because my time is split so many ways. Handling such a wide variety of tasks reduces the time available for calling on customers and developing new leads. I know you want to increase sales, so I would like to discuss the best way to handle this situation."

For assignments outside your area of expertise, calculate how much time your learning curve will take, then suggest a more efficient alternative. With the Facebook page, for example, you might propose assigning the technical aspects to someone with more experience, while remaining involved from a sales perspective.

Finally, you should collaborate with your boss in establishing priorities. List your responsibilities in order of importance, then see if he agrees with your rankings. This exercise should help you determine which activities he views as mandatory and which might be delegated or discontinued.

Question: I recently quit my job with a consulting company because the director consistently made decisions based on favoritism. He gave the best assignments to his pet employees and mentored them about how to build relationships with clients.

I eventually realized I could not succeed in this environment, so I left. In retrospect, is there anything I might have done differently?

Answer: One obvious strategy when confronted with a manager who plays favorites is to try to become a favorite yourself. This does not mean sucking up, but "managing up" intelligently.

First, you must identify your boss's preferences, then tailor your interactions accordingly. For example, if she likes a lot of information, communicate with her frequently. If he enjoys chatting about weekends, socialize more.

Unfortunately, many people in this situation take exactly the opposite tack. They become irritated and oppositional with their manager, thereby guaranteeing themselves a permanent place in the out-group.


Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Visit


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