Can’t not take on extra projects? Elaine Varelas disagrees

Overburdening can be a problem with some employees who feel pressured, either by their own doing or by others, to pick up more projects than they're reasonably able to do. That employee ought to examine why this is happening, and look for solutions that a fair to both them as well as the organization. Elaine Varelas offers a few questions and considerations.

Q: I regularly feel pressured into picking up projects no one else will touch. I’m not making any extra money for the extra time and effort and it’s weighing me down, but everyone seems to know if they don’t do it, I will – and I can’t not do it, I want to see the work get done. How can I find a way to balance this? Where and how do I put my foot down?

A: If you find yourself pressured to cover work that isn’t your responsibility, first you need to ask yourself: Why can’t you not do it? Certainly, stepping up to the plate and taking on additional responsibility most often makes you a fabulous employee, and that kind of behavior is typically appreciated by management and colleagues.

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However, if you are not feeling appreciated, there could be a number of underlying issues here, and you need to ask yourself a few follow-up questions that may help you recognize the problem: Are you letting people take advantage of you? Do you take some kind of hidden gratification in being recognized as the hardest working, the most committed, and the person who has all the answers? And lastly, are you getting gratification out of that while at the same time complaining about being asked to do this, or are you not even asked?

It’s very interesting that you say you can’t not do it. In fact, you can not do it. If you continue to do it, however, and you feel that these projects are outside of the scope of your job, then take a second look at your role. Have these new responsibilities and projects become a part of your role? Go back to your job description and double check the areas of responsibility. Does your job description need to be redefined to include these new responsibilities and projects? If the answer is yes, then take another look at these projects to confirm that they align with your new responsibilities and understand they have fallen into your role. If your manager is not aware of these incremental projects or how they align with your role, she may direct you to stop, as they should be part of other people’s responsibility.

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You might also suggest to your manager – if these responsibilities are within your scope, but overwhelming nonetheless – that you could find a way to divide these tasks and responsibilities among your colleagues so that the efforts and learning opportunities are equalized throughout the organization. Putting your foot down won’t necessarily get you what you want, but working cooperatively can ensure that important work does get done, and that every level employee is treated in the right way. This could be the solution for management, and for you.