As I fully appreciate the toll that COVID-19 has taken on global education and the overall economy, I am grateful every day to have maintained a job, a routine and structure throughout this challenging time. I am reluctant to object to any additional responsibilities that have come my way as a result of our current crisis, but I am currently overwhelmed with covering the responsibilities of a staff position we could not backfill, in addition to my own role. Management continues to set expectations that I take on new challenges and growth-oriented tasks as if these were "normal" times. I have reached a limit and do not know how or whether I should push back for fear of appearing unappreciative or not a "team player" while we are all challenged to do more with less right now. Is this something I should address, given the situation we are currently in?
Over-employed and Under-appreciated
Dear Over-employed and Under-appreciated,
First of all, kudos to you for starting your question with a gratitude check! Particularly in times like these, recognizing what you do have is essential, even though it might not be perfect. Second, I’m here to tell you you’re among friends. I know many professionals who are in this same situation. And while that may not seem comforting, it at least means you’re not alone in your struggle. So let’s dive in.
Let me state right away that I see no reason to suffer in silence in the workplace. It doesn’t serve you, and it certainly doesn’t serve the organization. I hear you loud and clear about not wanting to appear as the unappreciative anti-team-player, and complaining about feeling put-upon and overextended can very quickly hurl you into that camp. So here are a couple of suggestions you might want to consider:
Think about solutions you could offer up. What are some things that, despite the current COVID-induced limitations, could provide relief? When something isn’t working, it’s generally better to say, “hey, this isn’t working and here are some changes that I think could help” versus “I’m overwhelmed and frustrated and I just can’t do it anymore.” Are there other co-workers who could help you brainstorm possible fixes to this problem? Be specific in outlining creative ideas. Even if you learn that these ideas aren’t possible to implement right now, you’ve opened the door to a thoughtful and progressive conversation - one that shares your concerns and demonstrates how much of a team player you actually are.
The tried-and-true Golden Rule. If you were a manager at your organization and you too were feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the job right now (probably true), how would you want to be made aware of a staff member’s concerns? What would make you feel compelled to validate their position and help them with solutions? Chances are, your boss isn’t aware of all the pressure that is landing on you. And if they are aware, then all the more reason to share that you want to give this organization your best but you’re in danger of not being able to. This could shed important light on the balance within the whole organization that needs to be addressed so it can thrive when “normalcy” returns.
I don’t need to tell you what happens when you let yourself down by ignoring self-care and taking up martyrdom. You and your organization will lose on every front. People who are capable, nimble, and responsive are always the ones who get piled upon because they can be counted on and they’re good at what they do, especially in times of crisis. So take that as a compliment, and then set your limits with grace and clarity. Thank your management team for trusting you and giving you these opportunities, and then outline where you’d like to find alternatives. It may not happen overnight, but you will have set the ball in motion.
Finally, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There will always be a reason not to address your concerns and it will never be the right time. As humans we are highly skilled at avoiding perceived conflict, not rocking the boat. So COVID is only one of hundreds of excuses we have for waiting to tackle that escalating issue. While these times are unprecedented and perhaps, we do need to remain more gentle and patient with ourselves and others, that doesn’t exclude improving a failing situation. You have what it takes, and you deserve to regain your balance at work. I’m with you all the way!
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Over-employed and Under-appreciated? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself? Ask here!
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.