4 Tips for Handling Overwork and Overwhelm

No DramaToday’s guest blogger is Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama: Train Your Team to have No Complaints, No Excuses, and No Regrets(go buy a copy by clicking the link – there’s some great advice in there!). You can read more about her at the end of the post. Here’s Marlene…

Are you overwhelmed with a heavy workload only to get another unrealistic request from your boss? Is it really the workload, or could it be a communication problem?

Often the real challenge is developing the courage to tell ourselves and others the truth about what we can do. What we do to avoid a conflict, or dealing with someone’s disappointment is to offer something for which we are unprepared to deliver due to time constraints, abilities, or knowledge. Instead of making a promise you can’t keep, or keeping the promise but dropping another ball, what if you could just tell the truth, and still get the job done?

In my book, Stop Workplace Drama, the third principle is “tell yourself the truth.” Instead, much of the time we make agreements we can’t possibly keep, or we refuse to ask for what we want because, “I already know what he will say.” Or we simply play the victim and complain about how unfair life is, or we regretfully drop the ball because our stamina gives out before our will, then we give an excuse about why we dropped the ball.

This leads to ineffective communication between boss and employee and spreads negativity and drama. These four tips will help you to manage a heavy workload while improving workplace relationships:

1. Tell yourself the truth
2. Identify your choices
2. Tell your boss the truth
4. Communicate responsibly

Tell yourself the truth
First you must step out of denial by pretending that you can get everything done. To deny the facts means you are either going to disappoint someone or make yourself physically ill. If you really cannot do all that is asked, you must first face the facts of the situation. Facts include project deadlines, current priorities, estimated length of time to get a project or task completed, resources available.

Identify your choices
Now that you have been honest with yourself, you can list your choices. Can you delegate some of the tasks? What if you could think outside the box and find an assistant who would charge a small amount to do some data entry? What about hiring a personal assistant to free up some of your other obligations? There may be options you have not yet considered, but beware that any choice you make sets the stage for the same level of expectation and that is why you must be honest with your boss.

Tell your boss the truth
The boss really has no idea that you are swamped. She just wants to take things off of her plate. You have to let your boss know the facts. Don’t whine or complain and don’t promise that you can deliver something you can’t. The way to approach your boss is to state the facts, and the priorities, then ask your boss to lengthen a deadline on another project, or ask a team member for assistance. The fact is, you can’t add more than 10 percent more of a workload on anyone without offering additional resources. If you are being asked to double up, something has to go, and you must be responsible for helping the boss to understand the facts, the priorities and the consequences.

Communicate Responsibly
Learn how to engage other team members or co-workers through effective communication. Again, no complaints or excuses, simply go straight to the solution. Ask for what you want. Instead of saying, “This is not fair….” And “Look what I’m expected to do…” Instead say, “I’ve been given another task that is going to take three hours. Would you be willing to…” then make your request. Offer to help out in return, then give the person credit for helping you. You will help yourself, you will show you are problem solver to your boss, and you will also improve teamwork and morale.

– Marlene Chism is a speaker, author and founder of The Stop Your Drama Methodology, an eight-part empowerment process to increase clarity and improve productivity and personal effectiveness. She is a dynamic business and motivational speaker who has the unique ability to speak across the boundaries of many types of audiences: from the fortune 500 executives, to HR professionals to front line employees. Marlene has a master’s degree in HR Development from Webster University and is the author of Stop Workplace Drama: Train Your Team to have No Complaints, No Excuses, and No Regrets.Learn more at

4 Responses to “4 Tips for Handling Overwork and Overwhelm”

  1. loatc says:

    This works if your boss cares. Mine simply says…. You can get it done! And just walks away expecting miracles. Gazillion tasks due and no resources. You try to prioritize but everything they want is for yesterday

  2. Marlene says:

    I used to work for a boss like that. It's tough. It's hard to stay motivated. What would happen if you didn't get it done?

  3. alane says:

    This is a great article. It really helps to be honest with boss and explain to them why you feel overwhelmed and what they can do to get you to understand how you are feeling and try to brainstorm a list to help this get easier by practice.

  4. scorpionking says:

    That’s BS. Bosses don’t care. When you’re overwhelmed with work, and complain or try to make your statement, if your boss tells you that they will not get any extra help, is time to move on. Not worth the argument. I tried to continue in a job and I got sick. The problem is that people love making others lives misserable, because they are misserable themselves.

    Find another job, and if they do the same thing, move on as well, until you find what you want. PEACE!

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