Q. My direct boss left and I have been swamped with work ever since. People are assigning me tasks that used to be his and I feel overwhelmed. I have even stopped returning calls because I know they will just lead to more work. What am I supposed to do?
A. The loss or transition of a manager can be difficult on employees. If your boss leaves, it is not uncommon to inherit some of his responsibilities, at least for some period of time. Although it may be challenging, it is a great opportunity to step up to the plate and prove your value. Do not shy away from this chance. You have the chance to shine or to lose out an opportunity. To help you manage the changes, here are a few suggestions to help you manage this increase in workload, and take advantage of this opportunity.
1. Stay calm. An increase in workload is an obvious stressor, but a stressed employee is an ineffective one. Take a deep breath – regularly. The adage “never let them see you sweat” is appropriate here. Manage your stress by taking a walk, listening to music or doing a breathing exercise.
2. Stay positive. Think of this as a golden opportunity rather than unfair. Embrace the challenge. This is a moment that could help elevate your career to the next level.
3. Actively communicate. Coworkers and management will understand that you are adjusting to your boss’s absence. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Asking for guidance does not show weakness, but rather a willingness to collaborate and learn. Do not complain.
4. Showcase your brand. The impression you want to leave is team player, rises to the challenge, eager to learn. You have the opportunity to work with new managers—the managers that your boss used to answer to. Impress them with your added value.
5. Remember, this is temporary. Your boss will be replaced, and simultaneously this opportunity to shine will be over. Do not let the stress of an increased workload ruin your chance to impress.
While it is challenging and even overwhelming to inherit more work, your contributions can be recognized, now and at review time. So document everything you are doing. Being a team player doesn’t mean that you won’t advocate for yourself in a good way.
Building a career involves more than just good attendance and water cooler banter. It takes a keen awareness of when chances present themselves. While no one wants to feel buried in a mountain of work, this is an example of one of those chances. Keep in mind that upper level management will need to find a replacement for your boss. At the very least you will carry out some of his responsibilities in the interim. Essentially, you are stepping into your boss’s role. What better way to “interview” for a position than by actually doing it yourself?
Value the time you will interact with managers and earn an understanding for what they value. Additionally you will learn what a job at the “next level” entails. This opportunity may not manifest itself in a promotion, not immediately anyway, but it will serve as an invaluable learning experience. Learning to deal with stress is part of career growth. Weather the stress that accompanies additional responsibility and learn from it; recognize this opportunity as a opportunity to elevate your career.