Author Topic: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID  (Read 1554 times)

ReadySetMillionaire

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Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« on: August 05, 2020, 10:23:36 AM »
Summary My city department absorbed more work during COVID. This meant me doing a bunch of non-legal work. I thought this would last until furlough ended (July), but there is zero transition plan to get things back to the original departments. These other departments are paying people to work full salary to “work from home,” not do their jobs — because I am doing it. Looking how to force this issue.

***

I (an attorney) started at the city law department in February. I originally enjoyed the pace and subject matter of the work. The coronavirus obviously hit in March, and a lot of people were sent home. This included a bunch of people in the economic development department, which does the city’s zoning, land bank, and business development work.

In trying to avoid layoffs in the law department, the law director absorbed more work from other departments. This was good in theory but it led to a mountain of work.

I have basically become the chief zoning officer for the city, and also do everything related to the city land Bank. This is a job performed by three or four other non-lawyers, and it is heavily administrative in nature.

Here is why I am starting this thread. Before this week, I had light at the end of the tunnel because furloughs ended at the end of July. This meant everybody return back to work in August. I assumed that if I put my nose down and did what I was asked, that things would transfer back the way they were in August. But now that does not seem to be the case, and I seem to be doing this zoning work indefinitely.

The director of the zoning department actually apologized to me, but had ZERO PLAN as to how to transition this back to her own department. She basically said Karen (the main person who does zoning) does not want to do permits from home, so I will have to do them until we figure that out. Karen is getting paid to do nothing. It makes me want to puke.

I now find myself fielding 10 to 15 zoning calls per day, processing 10 permits per day, etc. It is completely mind numbing and I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I still have my solo practice on the side, but I can ramp that back up if need be. All of this said, the city job was great before all this madness happened. My goal is not to switch jobs, but to go back to that.

Any and all advice appreciated.

zygote

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2020, 11:51:20 AM »
Where is your boss in all this? It sounds like your boss authorized the law department taking on more work at the beginning of the furloughs, but what about now? Does your boss know how much time and energy you're spending on these other tasks even after the other departments are back on payroll? Presumably, they want your focus back on your usual legal matters.

I would start by telling your boss that you were glad to be able to help the other departments in a pinch during a furlough (and avoid layoffs in the law department), but that this workload is unsustainable for you long term.

If your boss tells you to stop doing the work and/or is able to talk to the zoning director and/or shift the zoning to someone else, great. You win.

If your boss supports you in theory but won't do much in practice, I would tell the zoning director that you appreciate their staffing complications, but your workload is too high to continue doing the zoning and they will have to find another solution by next week or whatever timeline seems reasonable to you. And then...stop doing it.

Honestly, good workers get burned out very easily because they are prone to picking up the slack that they see. You see zoning work that needs to get done, that Karen won't do, so you do it. The zoning director has no incentive to have a hard conversation with Karen or to find another solution if you are getting the work done. Let the balls drop and make the zoning director catch them.

I don't recommend stopping the zoning work cold unless you have the support of your boss and you've had a conversation or two with the zoning director to give her a chance to come up with a plan. But don't continue to do this extra work indefinitely.

I also recommend searching around on Ask A Manger, or even send her a condensed/anonymized version of your question. She would probably have good advice. Most of what I wrote above is gleaned from her blog.

Zamboni

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2020, 12:13:11 PM »
Lol, it's a pandemic of work dumps on the industrious and conscientious! Yuck, zoning permits all day! No wonder Karen doesn't want to do that . . .

Your thread is pretty similar to mine below in this forum:
Help! Job functions formerly spread over 4 people are all being dumped on me
(last post on Aug 1, don't know how to link the thread, sorry!

In my case the people retired, though, so not quite as bad as your situation, which we can all agree is absurd at this point. After trying for two months to get someone to come up with some sort of transition plan, I ended up just sending an email that I would not longer do the work of the other folks . . . and then I immediately stopped doing that work. I did try to get help from my boss, but she was not supportive, and in fact she now seems quite mad at me.

Perhaps she will lay off or fire me later because of it? Whatever. I'm over it. At the moment, they still need me to do the job I was hired to do. However, just deciding I would no longer do all of the other people's work was a great decision for my morale and stress level. It was like a heavy weight was lifted off of me, and I went back to enjoying my job.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2020, 11:28:19 AM by Zamboni »

MayDay

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2020, 05:58:05 AM »
I agree with zygote. Being new it's a little trickier.

Possible approaches:

1. Ask your boss for help pushing back

2. Let you boss know the P&Z team is off furlough so you will be stopping the planning and zoning work on X date, and are emailing over all the active cases now so they are prepared. That way she isn't surprised if P&Z director calls her but don't ask permission

As far as carrying it out, email P&Z Director and let them know starting Monday you'll be routing these calls back to her department.  If she doesn't like it, say "I'm sorry you're struggling with staffing but I'm unable to help anymore", repeat repeat repeat. How did these phone calls get routed to you? It is an IT thing or a front desk person? I'd try to reroute then to P&Z Director herself, but if not, any time someone calls you, just give them P&Z Director's number. And refuse to do the work.

I say that from.the perspective that you seem willing to hold the line even if it threatens your job. And from what I know about government, your boss is not going to be able to fire you for refusing to do someone else's job. Of course she could be so mad that she gets rid of you some other way.  That's a risk. That's why I'd be inclined to go with my #2 above. You've told her what you are doing, and if she doesn't push back on that then you probably won't get in trouble for standing your ground.

ender

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2020, 07:12:44 AM »
"Boss, I am currently expected to do the jobs of A, B, C, D, and E right now.

 I cannot accomplish all five responsibilities as there simply is not enough time. I am currently doing the work of five fulltime employees which cannot continue as it is impacting my health. Which of the five fulltime responsibilities should I prioritize and which should I drop?"

Most semi-competent managers will recognize this situation will not work and result in dropped responsibilities regardless of how much they tell you to work, though. So if you have at least a semi-competent manager you should be able to have a good conversation on this topic with your boss. If your boss doesn't support you or says "tough luck get over it" it's a whole different problem.

GuitarStv

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2020, 09:08:57 AM »
"Boss, I am currently expected to do the jobs of A, B, C, D, and E right now.

 I cannot accomplish all five responsibilities as there simply is not enough time. I am currently doing the work of five fulltime employees which cannot continue as it is impacting my health. Which of the five fulltime responsibilities should I prioritize and which should I drop?"

Most semi-competent managers will recognize this situation will not work and result in dropped responsibilities regardless of how much they tell you to work, though. So if you have at least a semi-competent manager you should be able to have a good conversation on this topic with your boss. If your boss doesn't support you or says "tough luck get over it" it's a whole different problem.

After a lot of 100+ hour work weeks since lockdown, this is the approach I eventually took.  It worked.  I'm only doing two people's jobs now!

Zamboni

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2020, 11:38:26 AM »
^And the literal punching bag has helped you as well!

I think one of the things that the pandemic has exposed is just how many incompetent managers there are where I work. Also, there are WAAYY too many higher level managers, and they step all over each other's toes and contradict each other and send mixed messages when actual big decisions have to be made.

It has also exposed who will pitch in to help but also how few of my colleagues are willing to step up and do extra work when it is needed. Some might say "yeah, sure, I'll do that" but then they don't do it. This has provided reinforced respect for some of my colleagues, and complete disintegration of the respect I had for others. It seems like I should cut the folks with young kids at home some slack, and I do, but most of the worst offenders are older empty nesters who just know they are relatively invincible in terms of job security and therefore they can't be bothered to lift a finger to help anyone or even really do many aspects of their own jobs well.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2020, 12:14:33 AM by Zamboni »

Gronnie

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2020, 12:08:24 PM »
I like the approach of just letting your boss know that the others are off furlough and that you are going to transition the work back, then just doing it.

trollwithamustache

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2020, 08:41:02 AM »
Do you keep a list of all of these assignments? Thats what you send to the boss to have them prioritize. Prioritization is the managers job.

They will happily let you keep working as many hours a week as you want to over 40.

Laura33

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2020, 09:38:07 AM »
No one can abuse you without your permission.  I'm sure both bosses are happy as clams with the way things are, because Karen is a whiny little bitch (doesn't "want" to do her job from home, despite it being, you know, her JOB?), and so your taking over her job for free makes their life easier.  So of course they will continue to assume that things are fine; in fact, they will encourage you to keep doing the work, because that makes their lives easier than having to deal with each other and Karen and, you know, develop a plan.

The only way to change things is to make it more difficult to get you to do the job than it is for them to develop a plan and get Karen off her ass.  Doesn't mean you need to be angry or personally difficult to deal with; in fact, these things tend to go much better when you can stay calm and friendly and wanting to help while still refusing to be moved. 

I think you have a very good story here to sell -- you took the job with a clear understanding of what your role would be; you understand that the pandemic threw everyone for a loop, and so you have jumped in and tried to help out wherever you could to get the city over the hump; but that now that the immediate need (furloughs) has been met and it is clear this is going to be a longer-term issue, you are no longer able to continue to serve these additional roles as of, say, a week from Friday, and you are more than happy to work with them to transition everything back smoothly. 

Note that it seems particularly galling that Karen can pull the "I can't work from home" line, but that the result is that you are expected to then do the exact same job from, you guessed it, home.  So if they feed you a story about how poor Karen just can't do the job from home because XYZ, you can calmly point out that you have been doing that very job under those very constraints.  Bonus points if you can look slightly confused and indicate that you don't understand, because you also have [access issues/childcare issues/logistical problems, etc.], but you have been able to work around them, and of course you'd be happy to pass along to Karen what you figured out about how to manage those issues.   

TrMama

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2020, 10:18:41 AM »
I like the approach of just letting your boss know that the others are off furlough and that you are going to transition the work back, then just doing it.

This is basically what I did recently. None of it was Covid related, my boss asked me to take on what I thought was a small extra task a couple years ago. It ballooned and took over my regular work entirely. I did it because there was no one else available to do it and if we didn't get it done there would've been serious legal and business consequences. However, more people (at other locations) were hired and I finally realized I was doing work that could easily be passed on to others. So that's what I did. My life has become immeasurably better.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2020, 10:20:12 AM »
I agree that you should try to get your boss on board, but you can just tell them you can't do the other jobs.
It's like simply "forgetting" to go to a useless meeting.   Mostly PTF.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2020, 08:09:29 AM »
Thanks for all the advice in this thread.

The Law Director is always swamped but, based on the advice in this thread, I walked into his office and shut the door as soon as he got in late last week.  I made it pretty clear that I took one for the team for the last four months but was not willing to do it much longer.  I also told him that I could not possibly do all of that day-to-day work AND my actual job.

I gave him a plan to transition the work back.  He called the other director on the spot and ran it by her, and it was generally approved.

I am working this week to transition all the work back and will be completely done by tomorrow.

Thanks to all for giving me the confidence to know I wasn't insane.

***

A side note for those in similar dilemmas that might be lurking -- I do not have "fuck you" money, but being mustachian effectively gives me infinite leverage.  My wife and I have $200k in retirement savings (we are 32), way too much in cash right now, etc.  Our expenses are pretty low, and if we needed to tighten the belt, could get them down to around $4,500/month.  My wife's take home is roughly $3,000/month, so with that much in savings, we could go a long while without me earning anything.

More importantly, I never closed my solo practice.  That used to make $8-10k per month, but I slowed it down.  Now it makes around $4k/month, but I absolutely know I could ramp this back up.

I made it pretty goddamn clear that's what I would do to the Law Director, and he knew I was right and didn't want to lose me.

So problem solved.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2020, 08:54:43 AM »
Thanks for the update. 
No, being overwhelmed with 5 jobs is not being insane.  Most people are overwhelmed with one.
Glad it worked out.

As other posters have said, unless YOU say something, everyone will assume every thing is copacetic.

Laura33

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2020, 09:52:21 AM »
Well done!

Loren Ver

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2020, 10:55:39 AM »
Way to go!  And now the other employees get to contribute too!  Win for everyone...er.. maybe :).  Everyone but Karen that is.

Loren

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Re: Doing Three Other People’s Jobs Because of COVID
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2020, 11:42:11 AM »
Yeah...the idea that your management thought it was okay to ask you to do someone else's job for them because they didn't feel like doing it themselves doesn't instill confidence. I'm glad you're getting it sorted out.