Author Topic: Help! Job functions formerly spread over 4 people are all being dumped on me  (Read 4323 times)

Zamboni

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I've been at my employer for 11 years and took a promotion to a leadership position in January. At the time, I was extremely hesitant, because I'm not very excited about the extra responsibility, but it was sold to me with a 15% on the spot raise, some extra account money for programming and travel, and a promise to upgrade the admin assistant position in my new group.

History: 5 years ago, there were 3 senior professionals plus an admin assistant in this group. The group's work functions are essential to business operations. If these tasks do not get done, then my fairly large department cannot function, and my department is central to the money making function of my employer. Basically, we are the hub for directly providing the service that customers are buying. The admin assistant also does payroll for our department. One of the senior professionals was extremely senior, but he was still highly functional in terms of doing work. When he died, they did not replace him. So, down to 2 professionals and the admin assistant/payroll person.

The two remaining professionals were not especially happy with the extra work. Over the next few years, they made transfers to other roles and new people rolled in and out. The most recent one burned out in less than 6 months and made an interdepartmental transfer in December. The other just managed for a year and a half by not responding to anything and letting all of the balls drop, so he was removed from the position at the end of 2019.

I was put in as his replacement with temporary help from someone who was in the position 5 years ago (as a short-term fix because he's about to retire). The admin assistant announced that she is also retiring this summer a year ago. So, before I agreed to take on this role, my boss made promises to:
1. Fill the other professional position by this summer, and
2. Upgrade the admin assistant position to a more professional salary grade so that the person can have a college degree and the technical competence that hopefully comes with it. The promise was that this person would be hired ASAP so that they could learn how to use our convoluted internal computer systems from the current admin assistant, who has been with the employer for 30+ years. Reminder, the current admin assistant is retiring in 2 months.

Now, you can probably see what is coming next:
1. My employer is dragging feet on replacing the admin asst/payroll person. We interviewed and selected our top candidate more than a month ago. At that time we had secured permission from above to hire (there was already a hiring freeze) as this is deemed an essential position. Now weeks and weeks are going by without permission to actually make the offer. At this point, there will not be overlap with the existing person, thus no one to train the new person.
2. There isn't a serious effort to get a second professional hired to work with me.
3. Work has not slowed down, but picked up. We are all working double overtime remotely. Guy who is retiring soon who was brought in to help out for the short term has basically checked out, although sometimes he responds and does work.

Basically, I am one person, and I can't do 3-4 people's worth or work. That's where this seems to be headed in the next two months. If they don't get the admin asst position and other professional position filled soon, honestly I don't even want to carry on in the role. I would happily go back to what I was previously doing. There aren't similar job prospects in my geographic area right now.

What do you suggest?

Frankies Girl

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Textbook answer (per Ask A Manager) is to remind your boss that you are able to do A, B and C, but going forward D-Z will not be addressed due to the lack of staff coverage (Person 1 retired, Person 2 is no longer helping with the projects they were asked about, Person 3 is leaving in 2 months, etc).

And you do the projects you can do in the reasonable time you would normally devote to your job.

It's not your job to provide coverage for more than 2 people. If you continue to do so, they have no incentive to hire quickly if at all. You need to stand firm on what you can and can not do, and remind boss that this is unreasonable.

"So boss, with Amanda retiring in 2 months and no signs of having a person in to replace Roderick, Cassandra, or Barnaby who left last year, I wanted to touch base with you regarding my work load. I can handle the cat wrangling but you need to get someone in to do the llama herding as I can't cover that any longer. You'll also need to hire another person in the next 2 months to replace Amanda, and ideally that should be done before she leaves. What are the plans here?"

If there is any "well you just need to do it all" type of garbage:

"I've been doing the work of 3 people for the last quarter. I understand with the COVID19 situation things got messy, which is why I did what I could until now, but I can't keep up this heavy a workload, it is unrealistic to expect me to continue doing the work of 3+1 people when you have the ability to hire for those open positions. I need you to go forward with filling the open positions ASAP, as it is unreasonable to expect one person to provide coverage for this much work indefinitely. I will be handling A, B and C and provide emergency coverage for D as possible but it is essential for our department to get restaffed so we can operate efficiently."

And I'd start looking for a new job. Especially if your boss drags their feet on hiring ANYONE in the next month. Your admin leaves in 2 months - if they haven't filled at least 1 vacant department position AND the admin by then, GET OUT ASAP. Especially if boss tries to blame you for work not t getting done.

In the meantime, stick to doing what you can handle in a reasonable workday. Stop covering the extra work. Stop doing the work of 2+ people. If boss complains, you agree. "Oh I know, it's terrible that this didn't get handled, but I was unable to cover that and still get A, B and C done. This is what I was talking about. We're going to start missing things and losing business if we don't get more people in to cover the work we need done. Where are you on the offer for that admin asst/payroll person you interviewed? I thought they were a sure thing? It would likely have helped to have them in here a few weeks ago."

Practice nice but firm responses like:

I'm sorry but this isn't going to work for me.

I can't handle any more extra work.


Then add in what you can do and put it back on boss (repeat as needed):

I can work on either A or B. Which project would you like me to prioritize?

(if answer is both/all of it)

Sorry that's not possible. If you aren't sure which one I should be concentrating on, I'll do my best to cover what I can on A.




Worst case scenario: they fire you? You stated yourself that one person just stopped responding/doing their job and it took them a YEAR AND A HALF for them to "remove them from the position" so I kind of doubt you're in any real danger, but if they DO fire you... you have a lovely reason for being let go - you were doing the work of the entire department and asked them to hire to fill the empty positions so you weren't working 100 hour workweeks, and their answer was to let you go?

Freedomin5

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Frankies Girl is right. They canít let you go. Otherwise your boss will be responsible for doing it all. I like everything that Frankies Girl said. Do everything that she suggested.

And as a Plan B, definitely start looking for other jobs. When you get an offer, talk to your boss about the situation (that you are being offered a similar salary to do only one personís work). YMMV, but my experience is that, if you provide an essential service, and youíre the only one who can do it, they will either get you the support you need, or they will find some way to increase your salary significantly to compensate you for the additional work/stress.

Dicey

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@Frankies Girl is smart. I always like what she says. You would be wise indeed to listen to her. And I'm sorry you're in this pickle @Zamboni. Best of luck.

ctuser1

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For some reason I seem to land up in the type of a situation you describe ALL THE TIME. I'd guesstimate I've spent may be half of my working career in similar situations.

It started when I jumped in to be a consultant right out of college. Well, when your client(s) are paying $300/hr, and hired you for 2 weeks to solve world hunger and peace, they don't want to hear excuses but demand results. For some reason, fires seemed to follow me everywhere from there. The latest one of these was for 3-4 months last year when I was basically working 20-hour days straight for several weeks.

I can share my strategy. Note, this is what I do, and likely needs to change based on individual situations.

A. Be willing to go the extra mile when there is a genuine need. I don't respond well at all to political bull**, don't answer to any micromanagement (and don't do micromanagement), and expect an extremely high degree of autonomy in my work (e.g. deciding when I will work from home, even before the current crisis). As a flip-side, I am generally grateful for the workplace that provides a work environment that satisfies these demands of mine (and I have had both kinds of places), and put in a very high amount of effort for genuine organizational or client needs.

B. Be 100% transparent about bandwidth. Anyone following up with me gets a response like: "I have to work on the following list before I get to this item. It is lower in priority than other items in this list because X,Y,Z. If you think the priorities are wrong, please speak with <big boss>." Or a response like - "Sorry - I am not able to take up any work on project A, because I am occupied 25% on B, 25% on C, 10% on D ..... Can you perhaps consider <contingency plan>".

Most people I have suggested this to generally struggle with this level of transparency. It is indeed difficult to account for *everything* you are doing - especially when you are firefighting. However, that is necessary to effectively push back on such situations.

Zamboni

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Thank you for these responses.

I've was stepping up big time at the beginning of the year because it was a new role and the previous guy, as I mentioned, just kind of let all of the balls drop on the ground everywhere. So, there was some clean up work, which I thought would be for a short time and I'd have everything all organized and it would be more normal and smooth.

Then, COVID-19 hit and there was all kinds of disruption with the move to work from home. Again, I had to work double overtime to keep things running. It was massively disruptive to our business model. So, I dealt with getting all of the transition to work from home ironed out because, again, it seemed like a short term thing, we were interviewing for the admin assistant replacement, so I felt good about that, etc.

Now I am starting to see that there is no end in sight. My blood pressure must be through the roof. . . and I can't even go to the doc right now to get it checked. It's really painful because I want to do a good job and I'm used to doing a good job. Letting all the balls drop passive aggressively like the previous guy is just too stressful! Thanks again for the suggestions. I really like the "I'm working on projects A, B, and C." That's it. Three projects is all I can realistic work on at all. Anything not on that list, I'm not doing it at all for the next two months. If we don't have a new admin assistant by then, and at least a formal offer out to a higher level professional, then the job is definitely just not going to work for me long term. If anyone else has additional ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Chrissy

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You should absolutely go to the doctor.  If your blood pressure is high because of work, you might attempt to take some FMLA. Honestly, only your absence will incentivize your employer to take action.

ctuser1

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I really like the "I'm working on projects A, B, and C." That's it. Three projects is all I can realistic work on at all. Anything not on that list, I'm not doing it at all for the next two months.

I have been using that, and the prioritization line for over a decade and a half. It works!!

Please be mindful, however, that my post was little tongue in cheek!! Your response, tone and verbiage has to differ based on who is asking.

You should always be very polite to everyone, very consistent, AND very firm. However, e.g. if the CIO comes and asks you for something - then you don't send him a "take a hike" response - you rather forward the ask (email? if by phone - document as a "meeting note" and use that as "documentation") to other stakeholders on other projects you are doing and tell them something like - "sorry, big boss asked for this. It'll occupy me for 3 months and your stuff is going to not get done during that time".

Essentially, I find it helpful to have a 15 minute "my planning" session every morning. This is when I don't talk to anyone, just sit down and list down my items and their priorities. Very often, something that was deemed high priority will no longer be such high priority two days down, and vice versa.

mm1970

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@Frankies Girl is smart. I always like what she says. You would be wise indeed to listen to her. And I'm sorry you're in this pickle @Zamboni. Best of luck.
Yes.

And I feel you.  I keep getting comments and emails about a function that is not being completed properly.

It has never been completed properly at this company.

When I got promoted to this position, I told the boss "I will not be able to perform that function".

Still, every few months, "MM, why is all this getting missed?"

Because:
1. We don't have enough people
2. We have too many projects
3. I told you that I cannot do this function for the project owners.  I cannot.  They have to do it, and they do not have the bandwidth.

herbgeek

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Another tactic  I have found useful:  Itemize all the functions that you see on your plate, as separate line items.  Order them in priority order, put a tentative line between those items you know you can get easily done, those that could be done with a small amount of overtime, and those that cannot be done.    This tentative line is in your head only, the only line you show the boss is the line where you can get things easily done.  You go to your boss and say "these are what I see as priorities" and ask for review/revision.  The second line gives you some negotiating power:  you can look like a "team player" by taking on a /little/more work.

Oftentimes, when someone is let go, some of their functions were not truly essential and can be discontinued.  When its in black and white, the boss may decide to let some of those functions go.   Or, the boss may want them done differently to save time (maybe something doesn't need as much documentation/work as had been previously done).  Or the boss can ask former stakeholders "is this report/output still necessary to you?"

This puts the onus on the boss to decide at any given time what should be worked on.  I have them review the list weekly if things are changing rapidly, monthly if they aren't.  It makes everything transparent.  If you get additional requests, tell the person it has to go through your boss. 

ctuser1

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Oftentimes, when someone is let go, some of their functions were not truly essential and can be discontinued.   

I'd concur..

When I was a consultant, I was once a small part of a grand project mapping organization goals and strategy with all the information systems they have in place (it's called "App Rationalization" in consultant-speak).

Conclusion? Almost half of the applications hogging resources (expensive technology employees, hardware) don't map to the organization strategy and don't add much (if any) shareholder value.

I have come to understand from others doing this type of consulting for living for years that this organization was actually more efficient than most. Most organizations can jettison 50%+ of their organization and bureaucratic functions without much shareholder or regulatory impact.

The problem is, when you are a small cog in the wheel then you often don't have the visibility to know what is essential and what is not. Even if you did, you would likely encounter 3 or 4 levels of managers between yourself and the person who can actually effect the decision to jettison the non-essential parts.

Zamboni

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I agree that some of the previous functions and activities of this group are not mission critical. Some are, though, and the understanding and clarity about that is completely missing from from people in charge overall. There's little appreciation for the amount of effort required for the most basic "metabolic functions" of this job. I'd reorganize and streamline if I had the staff to do it.

Right now, I'm staffed with two checked-out people who are retiring in two months. I like these folks on a personal level, but they have absolutely minimal motivation to put in any effort or do things in different ways from what that have always done at this point. Change is hard, and it doesn't get easier as you get older. We are all working remotely which makes communication harder especially with one person who keeps claiming technical issues and spotty internet. I've asked that person to document as much of what she does as possible since it now looks like there will be zero overlap with her replacement (overlap had been promised to me . . . probably the first of the broken promises.)

With every passing day, my confidence in the upper level leadership flags more. There is a poor sense of boundaries that I didn't realize until I took this role, for one thing. 

If I had a realistic way to bail from this position at this time, then I definitely would be working on that. Until things normalize somewhat, though, I'm not going anywhere so there is no reason to kid myself about that. Hiring in my field is cyclical, right now is not the right time of year to be looking even without all of the hiring freezes from the pandemic, and I have to think about what moving would mean for my family. A year from now, the situation will be totally different on the home front, so I have to get through at least a year.

After another year or so, perhaps I could just go back to the job I had before? I was quite happy with my situation at work until getting pressured into taking on this role. Some things about the new position are advantages, but on the whole the disadvantages are clearly outweighing the advantages.

I'm 4 months in and I really regret that I agreed to do this . . . so that leaves me these options:
1) figure out parameters to make it work (thank you for all of the great advice along these lines!)
2) getting out of this position gracefully over time while retaining a different position at the same employer (this is what 3 other people before me have done)
3) FIRE (it would be pretty bare bones, but it's not out of the question . . . my preference would be to work at least until my children are launched from the nest.)

Am I missing any options?

Frankies Girl

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There is no harm in looking to see if there are any jobs out there now. Even if there isn't anything, you looked.

I am so sorry you are in this position, but you're trying to do the right thing and it's not your fault they are asshats.

But overall, don't regret that you took the chance on this position. You assessed things to the best of your abilities, and it's not on you that you have a crap boss and shoddy upper management.

I know it's a clichť but remember it's based on truth: that which does not kill us makes us stronger. You will learn from this even if it's a crap lesson and you're going to be a much stronger, better person/worker no matter what they end up doing because you were honest and had integrity and cared about doing your job to the best of your ability. Even the crap experiences have a silver lining sometimes. But never doubt yourself in that you went into this with the best of intentions and are still trying to make it work all on your own and haven't been screwing around and the fact that you're still stressing about doing a good job when they are literally (sigh, not literally, figuratively) handing you a broken spoon and expecting you to dig an ocean? Oh hell no, you're a freaking star as far as I'm concerned.

Do what you can to feel good about yourself. Speak honestly and plainly to those you work for and with about what you need from them, and stand hella firm on what you're able to do and not one second more than what you feel comfortable with doing.

Do not sacrifice your health, your family, or you sanity trying to bail water from a sinking ship. Either the higher ups will recognize that they need to patch those holes if they want the department to survive, or they'll continue to ignore things until it sinks. Either way - that's on them, not you.


« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 04:04:38 PM by Frankies Girl »

BZB

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With your level of experience and leadership position, you probably have had headhunters reach out to you. Also you'll have plenty of connections in your industry as well, so you can tell people you're looking for opportunities. They'll do most of the work for you. When you leave for your new, sane position, you can let your panicked employer know that you're available for limited hours of consulting at (whatever high rate you want to charge). If you want to.

Treb3

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Please also do take your health warning signs seriously. I didnít, when I was in a similar position. Thank goodness I left that organization, and life is so much better, but I am still dealing with the health implications two years later.

SunnyDays

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Well, youíre lucky you work in the private sector.  When I worked for government, we were outright told that we were not allowed to ďdeprioritizeĒ any of our job functions even when resources were being cut left, right and centre and expectations increased.  Of course people did anyway because it just wasnít humanly possible to fulfill all duties.  But there were lots of stress leaves and some resignations.  Seems like lots of bosses are just unreasonable, but they pay for it with a revolving door of employees.

use2betrix

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Have you considered asking for more money? It should be really easily justified in this case since you should be able to demonstrate what your added workload consists of.

You donít mention your pay structure, but if youíre working that many hours, it sounds like a good time to try and push for a change to hourly + time and a half overtime. Or at a bare minimum, hourly.

FatFI2025

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Have you considered asking for more money? It should be really easily justified in this case since you should be able to demonstrate what your added workload consists of.

You donít mention your pay structure, but if youíre working that many hours, it sounds like a good time to try and push for a change to hourly + time and a half overtime. Or at a bare minimum, hourly.

I think you have to be absolutely clear with management what you want the resolution to be and stick to that messaging. When you go in with two or three different things, the message gets diluted. In this case I'd say "Listen boss I really care about the quality of my team's work and I don't feel like I'm able to meet my personal standards without [1 or 2] additional professional hires. I just want you to understand that so if I end up having to leave, it's not a surprise to you."

In my experience, bosses have a hard time differentiating between idle complaints and issues over which an employee will leave, so you have to be super clear. But TBH given the history of departures and dissatisfaction in your division, I wouldn't hold my breath for a resolution. Start looking for exit opportunities.

Also if you're close to FIRE, why not just leave now and find something post-COVID? That's the whole point of FU money.

Zamboni

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Well, just got word today that they're not going to replace the admin person in my group who is retiring. So we wasted all of that time advertising and interviewing. Great. The boss is now talking about some restructuring to put someone already employed in the role part time . . . if they don't do that soon, then the person leaving won't be able to train them to do her fairly unique job functions. Also, I can only think of 1-2 of the existing people who would be reasonably good at this job. Just putting a body in the chair isn't going to cut it, and I suspect they will try to fob the lowest performer or problem child off on me.

Oh, and I basically just took an 11% pay cut (which was disguised because they are cutting the 401k match and other supplemental pay I've always gotten.) So, technically my salary is the same, but I'm getting less money anyway.

Seems like tomorrow I'm going to have to be pretty blunt in my meeting: if I don't get additional people moved in these positions pronto, then this position just isn't going to work for me. I appreciate all the advice so far, and any other advice people want to mention.

former player

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At the meeting tomorrow you need to be specific with the problems and the solutions to those problems.  So for the admin position I would suggest saying that -

- your group carries out revenue critical functions and the admin role is what enables your group to function,

- the only existing admin staff who would be capable of taking it on are X and Y, and

- unless one of those persons is moved into the role immediately then the corporate knowledge will be lost and with it the revenue that your group brings in,

-  you propose that person X is moved into position from next Monday.

Good luck.

Morning Glory

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I feel for you. I am only 1.66 people right now and it sucks.

ctuser1

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Well, just got word today that they're not going to replace the admin person in my group who is retiring. So we wasted all of that time advertising and interviewing. Great. The boss is now talking about some restructuring to put someone already employed in the role part time . . . if they don't do that soon, then the person leaving won't be able to train them to do her fairly unique job functions. Also, I can only think of 1-2 of the existing people who would be reasonably good at this job. Just putting a body in the chair isn't going to cut it, and I suspect they will try to fob the lowest performer or problem child off on me.

Oh, and I basically just took an 11% pay cut (which was disguised because they are cutting the 401k match and other supplemental pay I've always gotten.) So, technically my salary is the same, but I'm getting less money anyway.

Seems like tomorrow I'm going to have to be pretty blunt in my meeting: if I don't get additional people moved in these positions pronto, then this position just isn't going to work for me. I appreciate all the advice so far, and any other advice people want to mention.

I'm sure you may be all too aware of it already - but part time help is often times worse than no help at all.

If someone is helping me part time (i.e. not reporting to me 100% - I don't care if it is dotted-line or direct) then there's often an accountability issue. Twice out of last 4 times, such part time help has been less helpful for me than no help at all.

Now, if someone talks about assigning part time help to my project - I either ask for people I know to be good at what they do and are personally friends with (they will show more accountability due to friendship if nothing else), or ask them "give me a full-time intern instead, please"!

Gronnie

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I'm pretty sure it's time to start making your exit plans.

Zamboni

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Thanks again, everyone. I put some of your suggestion directly into my notes for my meeting. This is really helpful.

Yes, it's exit plans time. I'm thinking about asking "what is the succession plan for my role?" or something along those lines, but maybe it is better to just keep quiet about it?

There are positions posted right now, this very morning. Many would involve a move overseas, which I'm fine with, but part of me feels I need the dreaded "one more year" because my kids are in high school. Of course, who know what will happen with their school & beloved sports over the next year, so probably it doesn't matter if we move to Sweden or Taiwan.

I do have FU money, but prior to this whole situation I liked working. My preference is to get out of this without obliterating my career.

ctuser1

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In my experience, your management/leadership would be all too keenly aware of the impossible nature of the asks from your situation. They play the ostrich because they donít have anything they can do.

If you are truly ready to walk, Iíd probably phrase the threat in a constructive way. Iíd probably just write up a PowerPoint:

Current responsibilities | Bandwidth/effort
óó-
People management    | 10% x # of people
Task #1.                     | 25%
...
...
...


Current total bandwidth allocation: 375%
(Or something such ridiculous)

This is not sustainable!

What can we do #1: Boston Tea Party
Highest priority tasks that I can fit within 100% allocation are:
...
...
...

Suggestions? Opinions?



What can we do #2
...
...




Iíve done this in the past, minus that having FU money part. You have more leverage than I did.
Having a formal escalation like this + the implicit threat that you may walk often times gives the management the exact leverage they need to push their management. A well- made PowerPoint that they can forward to their execs with minimal effort usually goes a long way.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2020, 05:12:02 AM by ctuser1 »

Smokystache

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...
I'm 4 months in and I really regret that I agreed to do this . . . so that leaves me these options:
1) figure out parameters to make it work (thank you for all of the great advice along these lines!)
2) getting out of this position gracefully over time while retaining a different position at the same employer (this is what 3 other people before me have done)
3) FIRE (it would be pretty bare bones, but it's not out of the question . . . my preference would be to work at least until my children are launched from the nest.)

Am I missing any options?

First, I empathize. You're being screwed over here.

But I think you're missing a big 4th option. Sabbatical. Or call it whatever you want. If one of your options is FIRE, then another option is quitting until you find a job that fits your skills and an employer who respects you - and then rebuilding your savings.

I know you mentioned that hiring is cyclical in your industry, but unless your savings are locked in some unusual investment or other situation, then know you can walk out the door and have a roof over your head and a food on the table. right?

I agree with other posters who believe that your employers are taking advantage of you and will blink if you push back. It sounds like you were one of 4 people shoving coal into a train's steam engine and then the other 3 quit. And someone at train headquarters is saying "just keep shoveling to keep the train moving. Now maybe the train really only needed 3 shoveling coal - but it sure as hell needs more than 1. When you push back, you're saying "I guess the train is going to be 12 hours later every day and there's no way we're getting over that mountain." But until the train doesn't make it to the station and lots of passengers and other people at Train headquarters are pissed, this won't change. At which point you simply point out, "they asked me to do the work of 4. It's not possible."

In fact, that's not a bad mantra during these meeting. "You're asking me to do the work of 4. That's not possible. You're asking me to do the work of 4. That's ..."

I hope they wake up. So sorry that you're dealing with extra stress and health problems during an already stressful time.


Chrissy

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I also like, "What's your retention strategy for me?"  If they don't have one, that tells you something.

FatFI2025

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I also like, "What's your retention strategy for me?"  If they don't have one, that tells you something.

I hope this is meant to be a flippant comment and not a serious recommendation.

Zamboni

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Thank you for keeping the ideas coming.

The meeting this morning did not go well for the most part. I pressed pretty hard and was told "we know that we need to fill two of these positions, we just can't do anything about it right now. We don't know when we can fill them."

One of the professional positions they are definitely not going to even try to fill until after August . . . they told me that point blank.

For the admin position, I think I did get across the point that it needs to be a full time effort, not some half baked part time dotted line arrangement. So I'm calling that a win for today, because I need all of the wins I can get.

The only name suggested by the boss for the admin position, which is an acute immediate need was (as I feared) the worst possible fit for the position. Even worse than I could have imagined for who would be suggested, actually. Basically it's a currently fairly idle person, also of retirement age, who has no computer skills and very poor people skills but needs something to do because her job was very manual before the move to remote work. I went with "Absolutely not, that would be worse than having no one" and they seemed to respect that . . . PROBABLY BECAUSE THEY KNOW THIS PERSON COULDN'T DO THE JOB, SO WHY FUCKING SUGGEST HER! They haven't let her go yet because her job will be necessary again when anyone is allowed to go back to the building in any capacity, which will happen in the next few months I think. It's like they suggested the retirement-aged janitor become the new program coordinator, it's that bad of a suggestion.

I'm adding @Chrissy 's phrase to the list I generated from earlier suggestions by @former player and other posters for things to say during meetings.

@ctuser1, making a powerpoint I think would be extremely helpful me in seeing it all laid out for myself, and to help me make decisions about what has to stay in my week right now and what I just won't do. It will be a useful tool to press my point. Thanks for this great tip! I'm definitely going to do this right now. It's made easier by the fact that i have detailed job descriptions for all of the people who are supposed to be working in my group . . . putting all of that onto the powerpoint will add up to something like 375% (probably more, honestly, because at least one of the people had an impossible list of tasks, thus their exit). And, that is just to maintain the status quo.

Of course, we are not in a status quo situation; we are in a major upheaval situation. The presentation this morning by the boss at Executive committee meeting was that we are forming 5 new task forces to figure out how our company will operate moving forward, and really 4 of the 5 will affect me or require effort by my group in some way. All of the professional people are going to be asked to serve on one or more of these. I am only going to agree to serve on one of these and I'm just going to have to hope that decisions made by the other groups don't make my job impossible.

I was supposed to take a long planned vacation this week and next week, and that got nixed. Now I moved that to June, and there were moves made by the boss to nix that today. It's just not acceptable.

@Smokystache that's a really good analogy and I'm going to go with that mantra, especially after I show the powerpoint.

Thanks again, everyone. I'm afraid this will be a drawn out saga but I will post periodic updates. At least maybe updates of what worked at what didn't will help folks like @Aunt Petunia who find themselves in similar positions.

The saddest thing about the whole thing is that a lot of me feels like I should be happy to have my income right now. Regardless of how much I am hating aspects of my job right now, I have a six figure salary and don't have money worries at all. I am very lucky in that respect.

My Dad, for example, has been slashed down to 25% of his former income since March. He's told me he had a little cushion but that he and his wife will be out of that cushion money by the end of June. Actually he has made it longer than I expected him to be able to make it . . . he's always been terrible with money and didn't save for retirement at all. In his 70's and can't retire . . . social security payments are pitifully small because he was always self employed and didn't pay into it, but he started drawing the pittance he had earned right at 62 because of course he did.) His wife has been drawing unemployment but it's not very much $$$ and it's also set to expire at the end of June. So, I have to plan for the possibility that I will be paying his mortgage come July. Yes, he is in his 70's and still has a mortgage.

Going to start that powerpoint before my noon meeting . . .

SunnyDays

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Another way to approach all this:  remember the old computer saying of "garbage in, garbage out?"  That's basically what's going on here.  You're being given garbage to work with but expected to produce a usable product.  Given that this is impossible, I would forget the bigger picture and just tackle whatever task seems important that day or that minute and leave it up to the bosses to assemble the jigsaw puzzle.  You're still doing your job, and it seems to me that they can't afford to fire the one person left in your role.  Not your problem if this doesn't create any coherent result.

As far as paying your dad's mortgage, your heart's in the right place, but this won't be sustainable long term.  Again, not your problem.  Best to help him find a sustainable solution, like selling the house and moving into a rental.  The financial situation isn't likely to improve for him over time, and you'll just be siphoning money from your life to pay for his.  Because it won't just be the mortgage, will it?  It will become utilities, then insurance, then car payments, then food ...........

Gronnie

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I don't think I would be accepting of the vacation getting moved, and certainly not of it getting nixed. What would happen if you just said, "No I already have plans, and they can't / won't be changed" ?

mspym

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So you have reached the point where you let balls drop. If higher-up is not feeling pain, they have no incentive to solve the problem so it has to become their problem.
- Highlight in advance what you will focus on for the week and what will not get done.
- Any change in focus requires something else to fall off and make them make the decision as to what doesn't get done.
- Any pushback needs to be met with "I am one person, this scope of work requires 4 people"
- No holidays is not sustainable. Everyone needs rest and it is part of your compensation package. Book the time off for July and now they have a deadline to solve the problem.
- Start looking for other roles immediately. You have a great story lined up for why you are looking for a new role. Reach out to friends and colleagues in other organisations. They will try play the loyalty card but that is utter nonsense. You told them what was needed, it's been 5 months without action, that is sufficient notice if they were motivated to solve the problem.

mm1970

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So you have reached the point where you let balls drop. If higher-up is not feeling pain, they have no incentive to solve the problem so it has to become their problem.
- Highlight in advance what you will focus on for the week and what will not get done.
- Any change in focus requires something else to fall off and make them make the decision as to what doesn't get done.
- Any pushback needs to be met with "I am one person, this scope of work requires 4 people"
- No holidays is not sustainable. Everyone needs rest and it is part of your compensation package. Book the time off for July and now they have a deadline to solve the problem.
- Start looking for other roles immediately. You have a great story lined up for why you are looking for a new role. Reach out to friends and colleagues in other organisations. They will try play the loyalty card but that is utter nonsense. You told them what was needed, it's been 5 months without action, that is sufficient notice if they were motivated to solve the problem.
I have never ever ever cancelled a vacation for work.  Like, ever.  I schedule my vacations LONG in advance.  If I know there is going to be a deadline (like this year, during spring break) - I don't schedule a vacation for that time. 

I am SHOCKED at the number of former coworkers who have cancelled vacations for work, at the last minute.  Some of them talk about how essential they are but really - they were too lazy/scared to say NO.  The fact of the matter is, there was NEVER such an immediate need/ emergency that it couldn't wait a week, ever. (Not in my job or their job, anyway.)  The fact that it happened multiple times means that the particular supervisors #1 were not prepared and #2 did not value their employees.

mspym

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So you have reached the point where you let balls drop. If higher-up is not feeling pain, they have no incentive to solve the problem so it has to become their problem.
- Highlight in advance what you will focus on for the week and what will not get done.
- Any change in focus requires something else to fall off and make them make the decision as to what doesn't get done.
- Any pushback needs to be met with "I am one person, this scope of work requires 4 people"
- No holidays is not sustainable. Everyone needs rest and it is part of your compensation package. Book the time off for July and now they have a deadline to solve the problem.
- Start looking for other roles immediately. You have a great story lined up for why you are looking for a new role. Reach out to friends and colleagues in other organisations. They will try play the loyalty card but that is utter nonsense. You told them what was needed, it's been 5 months without action, that is sufficient notice if they were motivated to solve the problem.
I have never ever ever cancelled a vacation for work.  Like, ever.  I schedule my vacations LONG in advance.  If I know there is going to be a deadline (like this year, during spring break) - I don't schedule a vacation for that time. 

I am SHOCKED at the number of former coworkers who have cancelled vacations for work, at the last minute.  Some of them talk about how essential they are but really - they were too lazy/scared to say NO.  The fact of the matter is, there was NEVER such an immediate need/ emergency that it couldn't wait a week, ever. (Not in my job or their job, anyway.)  The fact that it happened multiple times means that the particular supervisors #1 were not prepared and #2 did not value their employees.
Yup, holidays are expected and should be planned for by any functioning business.
OP- Their lack of planning is an them problem not a you problem so don't let them make it your problem.

Zamboni

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I've blocked the time on my calendar. I started the powerpoint, and just the tasks assigned to me is way above 100% no matter how you look at it (forget about the routine responsibilities of the other people who aren't being replaced.) It's absurd.

I've blocked the time for the middle two weeks of June. The boss and others can figure out how to keep things running without me there.

Not sure what to do about my Dad's situation. Probably nothing I can do. He's an adult, and he's had money stress his whole life. His wife has declared bankruptcy at least once before they met. Their latest ruse is that his wife got hurt in a car accident last year and they've got some ambulance chaser who has convinced them they will get a big payout and that will solve all their problems. She was banged up for sure but she's not permanently disabled or anything like that, so I think it's magical thinking, honestly. Something tells me this is going to be a common story for hundreds of thousands of people soon, if it isn't already. :-(

fuzzy math

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Continue to push back. If you get laid off you can collect unemployment. Go on your vacation (but make sure your phone and email are not answered). Again if they want to fire you for taking vacation you get paid. All these employers are taking advantage of the recession to not hire and treat people poorly because they know most rely on their paycheck. If you have separate sick time, use that too to address your health issues. I consider this situation all out war and would make use of all my resources. Its not going to improve there until long after all economic instability has resolved. Decide how much you can take.

Zamboni

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Update:

Two replacements for the people who have left are now hired. One starts Aug 1 and the other starts end of Aug. So that is progress in the right direction. Of course, both will initially add to my workload because of training, but they both seem to be smart people who can take initiative and get work done. My idiot evil overlords tried to torpedo both of these hires at the last moment over relocation timing concerns! So, I had to do damage control on that . . . and I told them they should pay me a bonus for rescuing these hires after both top choice candidates were nearly completely alienated by our abrasive and nasty HR rep during the offer negotiation process. She shouldn't have even been on the phone with these people. So much dysfunction where I work.

My vacation go cancelled. I haven't had vacation this year. None.

In the mean time, my workload has been insane. Yesterday was particularly bad. 12+ hours. I now officially have "no confidence" in the people making the decisions at the top in my organization. Their decision process has been horrific, and the fallout on my workload has been real.

So, in response:
1. I'm only going to check email once a day at 9am. This is going to be really hard for me to do as I have been trained to become addicted to email. I expect that I won't be able to respond to most email if I only allocate an hour a day to it in the morning, so I have turned on my automatic reply and will be deleting most of the email I get, even those that have direct questions and expect responses from me.
2. I'm not attending any meetings between now and mid-August. I'll just decline meeting requests. For those that are "announced" rather than requested, I'll just inform the "host" I can't attend and then no show. "When can you meet?" requests will be met with "It looks like my schedule is pretty open Aug 20th or later." Wish me luck!

The goal was to try to take vacation, but I just no longer think that is realistic. It will not be allowed. Therefore, I am not officially taking vacation. But, I'm doing 1 & 2 above. All I can do at this point I think.

ender

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Sorry you are dealing with this.

ctuser1

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Congrats on the two new hires.

If they are experienced hires, I'd recommend that you set an expectation that you need them to be actually productive within 2 weeks, and give them measurable goals (e.g. take over process 1 such that you don't need me except for very tricky questions, etc). In the modern workplace, it is very much par for the course that you would be thrown in the water to learn swimming.

I find the metric of "10% per worker I am supervising" to be a good one. e.g. for two underlings, you should expect you will only do productive work yourself for 100%-20%=80% of the time.

If they are straight from college, then you should still set strict (and explicitly measurable) goals and deadlines from the get go, but don't expect them to be fully productive for about 6 months or so.

I am a little apprehensive about your approach to emails/meetings. The problem with your situation was created by your upper management, not your other colleagues who are trying to get help. So if you delete their emails, don't attend the meetings they are asking for, all without any explanation and with an uncooperative posture - then you may be burning your network and reputation. So, I'd be careful there.

Zamboni

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Thanks, ctuser1. You are right about that, of course. Many, many people either want or need help, and I shouldn't just blow them off.

After reflecting on it for the past couple of months, and with the help of all of your comments, I decided to ask to be transitioned out of the role this week. Although I didn't say it, I was fully prepared to be fired.

I think it's fair to say that my boss was super mad at me about it. She is having trouble hanging onto people, and that can't look good for her, plus she thinks I'm being "disloyal." But, it looks like I am free and clear of this ridiculousness. There will be some fall out from her, and surely I won't get any sort of raise at all for the next couple of years, but that was a likelihood anyway given the economic reality facing my employer. Honestly, she won't be in the role more than a couple of more years anyway. She's trying hard to climb the ladder on the backs of her people, so she'll either move up and out of my chain of command or she'll burn out or she'll bail. Her wrath is a short term problem, at most. In my new/old role, I can almost entirely ignore her.

The good news is that I have FU money. It gave me the backbone to say no to the ridiculousness. My only regret is that I let it wreck most of my summer. I was prepared to leave entirely, although that was not what I wanted. Prior to taking on that new position, my job had been extremely enjoyable for me. So, I asked to move back to those duties only (which I was still doing in addition to everything else being piled on me!) The even better news is that they couldn't afford to axe me (apparently, and I already thought that, but one really never knows . . .) They still need me to do "only" the full time job I was doing before.

So, I'm calling it "FU money for the win once again!" It gave me the backbone to stand up for myself. As far as my peers go, there won't be much fallout, if any. The person before me in that role only lasted 5 months. Everyone has at least an inkling that I was being shit on. It's one of those "everybody knows" situations. They had promised me they would fix things or at least let me fix things when I agreed to take on the role, and then they didn't. In fact, the pandemic made it get much worse, so that was that.

Now it looks like I will actually get to take a week of vacation in August. Yay! I think I'll go to the beach or the mountains in a remote area . . .

former player

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So pleased to hear this. Well done, and I hope the rest of the summer helps to make up for what went before.

Car Jack

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Congrats on finding your own exit strategy.

I wish I saw this thread earlier.  It is VERY common for employers to whittle down the workforce with zero thought to the fact that the work that discarded people did still needs to be done.  I'm an engineer supporting sales, where opportunity $$ is king.  In my role, sales people want my help and I prioritize based on the dollars.  At the entrance to my office is a ginormous white board.  Every project/customer I'm working on goes on this board with a $$ amount prominently sitting in front of the customer name.  Every weenie newbie sales person who went out and found an engineer who knows me (I've been doing this since 1994 and am known) comes in and begs me to come help with this guy's project, even though they're only doing 3 systems over the lifetime (this number actually happened....backscattering x ray system to scan trailers entering an airport).  I simply point to the board and ask "So which opportunity is your customer bigger than?" and go back to working and ignoring them. 

I propose that this can be done in any job.  I don't know your group's function, but I'd think that payroll would be #1.  So on the white board it goes as priority #1.  Estimate how much of a 40 hour week it takes to do.  10%?  Ok.  On down the line.  When you get to 100%, you're done.  That's all that you're doing.  When a boss asks "Why didn't you do that project that I assigned you?", you literally point to the white board and ask "which thing should I not do in order to do this project?".  Let them make the decision.  By doing extra to "make up" for employees fired or laid off or who quit, you're enabling the boss and signaling that there is no end to the number of hours you're willing to work.  Don't ever do that.  I've had co-workers who have done this and have come to me almost crying.  They are working 70 hours and still not getting everything done.  Ok, that means that you simply need to prioritize and when the number of hours in the week hits 40.00000, you stop.  Stuff not done won't get done.  Ever.  Boss doesn't like it?  Too bad.  Point to the white board. 

Zamboni

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Car Jack, I do like your white board idea.

One of the guys who just retired from the group tried to do something similar a couple of years ago. He made this huge list with some indications of time required. It was right before my predecessor's predecessor took over, because he was really concerned that the workload was not reasonable. The group had already been squeezed down by one headcount and the boss was planning to squeeze it down another half person. He tried to make your point, although it's harder to tie things to direct money. I bet I could do it if I tried, but he didn't approach it that way. I actually still have the list. It's pages and pages and pages of tasks and projects for EACH person in the group. 

The response from the boss? Oh, this task and that task don't take that long. They take less time. Stop putting these lists in front of me. You don't have to do all of this, but prioritization is up to your group. You get the idea. She's just clueless. And she wasn't one to back people up when there was fallout from decided not to do something.

So when I got approached by the boss to lead this group, he sent me the lists. I knew the group was already down a person. I brought it up before taking the role, said I needed a 20% raise, some supplemental pay on top of that for specific duties, reduction of my other duties, to hire a higher level person, and that the retiring people definitely needed to be replaced, ideally before they were actually gone so they could train their replacements for at least a couple of weeks.

She dismissed hiring another person (balls were being dropped all over already and the whole group was really stressed out but she didn't care), said that he was operating in the stone ages and I would be able to streamline and modernize things (partially true, but only if I have the personnel to do it). Came back with a 5% raise and no supplemental pay . . . said those decisions were above her head and she had no ability to lobby further for me. But, she promised to hire replacements with overlap, and she promised a reduction in my other duties. That didn't happen. End of story.

Now I feel slightly guilty about abandoning the new folks who will be starting eventually. I have some idea whom she will try to saddle next. Gave the person a teeny tiny heads up . . . just like the people who came before me gave me.

In the end, I think it will work out fine. But I'm going to make a 5 year plan to exit the entire organization anyway. It's good to have goals. Could be into RE, could be into a fun job somewhere else. We'll see.

ender

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Congrats on finding your own exit strategy.

I wish I saw this thread earlier.  It is VERY common for employers to whittle down the workforce with zero thought to the fact that the work that discarded people did still needs to be done.  I'm an engineer supporting sales, where opportunity $$ is king.  In my role, sales people want my help and I prioritize based on the dollars.  At the entrance to my office is a ginormous white board.  Every project/customer I'm working on goes on this board with a $$ amount prominently sitting in front of the customer name.  Every weenie newbie sales person who went out and found an engineer who knows me (I've been doing this since 1994 and am known) comes in and begs me to come help with this guy's project, even though they're only doing 3 systems over the lifetime (this number actually happened....backscattering x ray system to scan trailers entering an airport).  I simply point to the board and ask "So which opportunity is your customer bigger than?" and go back to working and ignoring them. 

I propose that this can be done in any job.  I don't know your group's function, but I'd think that payroll would be #1.  So on the white board it goes as priority #1.  Estimate how much of a 40 hour week it takes to do.  10%?  Ok.  On down the line.  When you get to 100%, you're done.  That's all that you're doing.  When a boss asks "Why didn't you do that project that I assigned you?", you literally point to the white board and ask "which thing should I not do in order to do this project?".  Let them make the decision.  By doing extra to "make up" for employees fired or laid off or who quit, you're enabling the boss and signaling that there is no end to the number of hours you're willing to work.  Don't ever do that.  I've had co-workers who have done this and have come to me almost crying.  They are working 70 hours and still not getting everything done.  Ok, that means that you simply need to prioritize and when the number of hours in the week hits 40.00000, you stop.  Stuff not done won't get done.  Ever.  Boss doesn't like it?  Too bad.  Point to the white board.

There are many, many managers in the world where this type of approach will seriously backfire.


Zamboni

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Yes, ender. I have one of those managers. She does not want to believe what she is told about workload.

Her approach has backfired more on her than on me, though.

Qualified employees don't grow on trees, after all. It takes a lot of time and money to find us and recruit us and hire us. You have to treat us decently to retain us. Car Jack "gets away" with his white board because they know they will ultimately lose money if there is turnover. When managers start burning through people at my employment and education level, as she has done, it ultimately doesn't help their own careers.