In the Ask a Manager section of Inc.com, Alison Greene answers questions about management and workplace issues.
One of the employees I manage works very hard, reliable and always fulfills its tasks. He has a great reputation in the company and everyone consults him when they need help with a project.
But over the last few months, he’s staying up late and talking about it in a way that bothers me. I often hear him say things like, “I’ll be here by 9:30 PM to finish something else” or “I’ve been here by 8:00 PM and it’s not over yet.”
At first, as his manager, I felt obliged to find out where these tasks came from and what I could relieve him of. Each time we met, we planned on how to postpone something, or contacted our clients to ask for an extension, etc. Then, a day or two later, he stayed up late again. Yesterday he sent me a message saying: “Look at the time I’m sending this email – I was here by 10:00 PM.”
It’s frustrating when she parodies her overtime because it doesn’t help me do anything about it. Looks like we have a plan and then it goes down. At this point, I have the feeling that he wants to make me feel guilty or bad about him. (He is not eligible for overtime money.)
I believe the problem is inefficient task and time management. He has a management team that does the design work for the whole company and sometimes there are inquiries that we have to refuse or give a more realistic deadline for execution. He wants to please everyone who is not realistic about his type of work. Another problem is that our workload is not constant – sometimes we are bombarded with requests and sometimes not quite.
I do not want to deprive him of the freedom to manage his tasks, but part of my role (I believe) is to help him manage his work within a 40-hour work week. Any advice?
Alison Green’s response:
Are you convinced that this has to do with work and time management, not just the need to complete the tasks? If the latter is addressed to the employee, you will demoralize it. Before doing this, make sure that it is not a logical and conscientious response to workload.
But assuming you’re sure he doesn’t have to work that long, sit down with him and tell him, “Bob, it’s important for me to find a way to manage your tasks so that you work at a reasonable time – which means more 40 hours a week. We have talked about this before, we have planned things and in the end it seems that we have not solved the problem. What is happening?”
He will probably answer that simply his workload cannot be managed for up to 40 hours a week and that he has no choice but to work overtime.
Then you can say this: “I am committed to reducing your tasks so that they can be completed within 40 hours each week. But doing so means that we need a better system for new requests. I would like to deny some of them or give them a longer implementation time so that you do not work too hard and will fully support you in setting those boundaries. I’m open to other ideas if you prefer a different approach. But the plan should not be to work until the evening to finish everything. This is not sustainable and I want to keep you for a long time without getting knocked out. So let’s understand how we will act. ”
Then, once you have a plan, tell him, “I know we agreed to something like that before and it didn’t end well. Can we agree that you will come to me if there are other reasons to work too many hours? “He will presumably say” yes “and then you must say,” I will count on you to do it. ”
Then, a few days later, check it again, “How’s it going with your task management?” If you hear again that it’s working late, help him figure out what he needs to change. This will help confirm that you are serious. Check it periodically, maybe once a week, until a new work model is approved.
And if you hear him complaining again about too many hours of work, sit down again and talk, “Bob, when we talked about this last time, I very clearly asked you to come to me if your hours were again a problem. Why am I hearing about this right now? ”
You will need to stay on his path, at least for a while. Otherwise, he is unlikely to take the issue seriously and will probably fall behind again.
But remember, make sure first that this is your employee’s actual problem, because otherwise you will disappoint him.