How To Tell Your Boss You Have Too Much Work

Updated on August 8, 2017
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has strategic management skills in organization, planning, and policy development. He managed his own business over 35 years.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with all the work piling up on your desk? I had that experience when I was a Systems Analyst in a corporate office. I discovered the best way to tell my boss I had too much work. I'll tell you how I did it, and got positive results.

Presenting the dilemma of being overwhelmed to your boss in the right way can work miracles.
Presenting the dilemma of being overwhelmed to your boss in the right way can work miracles. | Source

Communicate Effectively With Your Boss

I had a load of work with many assignments piling up because other people in the company came to our department for support. We were the Systems Services Department for the corporate computer system.

My boss may not always have been aware of what the other department personnel were requesting of me, and I knew it was important to let him know.

Do you have a similar situation where your boss doesn't necessarily know what work is being presented to you? Even if your boss is the one giving you the work directly, he or she may not be aware how much time is required to complete all the tasks.

It’s not easy to deal with this kind of situation. You may feel that if you complain about it, your boss may think less of you.

I gave some thought to how I can present my dilemma to my boss without making it sound like I was complaining. I came up with a brilliant idea.

Your situation may be different, but the main idea I'm about to present to you will work under any circumstances.

Let Your Boss Prioritize Your Workload

I realized that all I really needed to do was level out my workload with one task at a time. One might consider that "workload management." In order to achieve this so that I can work on one thing at a time, I needed to set a priority on each task. However, I knew I needed to discuss that with my boss?

I needed to present my dilemma in a special way so that it makes me look good. It was important that I don't come across as complaining.

I went into my boss’s office and asked politely if I may speak with him. I explained that I had these various task assigned to me that needed to get done.


I clearly described all the tasks so he knew what they were. By describing them, I showed that I had a good grasp of the importance of each task.

I continued with saying that I wanted to know what priority he felt I should give to each item. That was the clincher. I didn't know it then, but that had a powerful effect on his response.

The reaction was very positive. He was extremely pleased that I gave him the courtesy to let him make the decision about the priority of each assignment.

I was just trying to let him know that I was overloaded with work, without sounding like a complaint. Because of the way I presented it to him, he realized that I was considering his feelings on the matter.

The outcome was just what I needed. He told me what priority he preferred for each task. That gave me the opportunity to work on only one thing at a time. The result was a lot less stress.

Doing one thing at a time, without worrying that I'm not getting the other things done, was really helpful. The outcome was that I did each job better because I was able to concentrate on each task one at a time.

Your Boss Will Want to Give You a Raise

There’s more! There was a rewarding side effect I discovered, one that I hadn't considered before. Your boss will remember your good attitude.

When the time came for my review for a raise, my boss reminded me about what I had done.

He said to me, “Do you remember the time you asked me about the priority of your assignments?”

Not knowing what he was going to say about this, I timidly said, “Yes, I remember.”

Then he told me that my approach showed him that I was considerate of how he felt about the order of importance.

He continued... "And you deserve the best raise that I am allowed to give you."

The company had a certain pay range that my boss needed to abide by. However, he gave me a raise at the top end of that range. My method of communicating with him helped me beyond my expectations.

"You deserve the best raise that I am allowed to give you."

Summary of the Key Points

You can do it too. Just remember the key points:

  1. Clearly describe all the tasks.
  2. Be courteous with your presentation.
  3. Make it clear that you want your boss's input on priorities.
  4. Make sure you don't use words that sound like you're complaining.

Now that you know how I handled this, you will be prepared to communicate effectively with your boss in a way that works for you.

Questions & Answers

    © 2009 Glenn Stok

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      • Glenn Stok profile image
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        Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

        RTalloni - You understand the problem well. Most people don't look at it from the other point of view. They only think about how they are affected by it. That victim attitude doesn't leave room for a solution.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

        Everyone I talk to has this problem and their frustration indicates that they do not think there is any hope for improvement. The responses seem very immature, a societal problem perhaps. This practical approach would be beneficial to most of them.

      • Glenn Stok profile image
        Author

        Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

        Lisa - Remember to present the idea to your boss in a way that doesn't sound like you're complaining, but instead, that you are simply asking her to indicate the order of priorities. Let me know how it works out. Good luck.

      • profile image

        Lisa 2 years ago

        Thank you for sharing the insight. I am having difficulties with getting my boss to understand the workload I am under. I feel like she would respond well to this approach.

      • Efficient Admin profile image

        Efficient Admin 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC

        There was an article that came out recently (and I apologize I do not remember the source) that said the human brain is not cut out to "multitask". Doing one task at a time is what the brain does best. I have tried this approach in my own deadlines and it works much better than trying to work on 3 different things. Thanks for an insightful article. Voted up!

      • Glenn Stok profile image
        Author

        Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

        Cathleena, It sounds like you make a good boss yourself, knowing how to delegate some of the duties to others. I'll have to take a look for your hub that you mentioned. I'm eager to see what you have to say. It sure does help to write about your feelings. I can attest to that myself. Writing is a great outlet. Not only for the writer but also to share useful experiences with the reader. Thanks for stopping by and for your inspirational comment.

      • Cathleena Beams profile image

        Cathleena Beams 6 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

        This topic caught my attention because I am in a high stress situation at work a lot of the time, especially during the times when my boss is away from the office and I take on her responsibilities in addition to my usual ones. Recently I wrote a humorous hub about the experience. It made me feel better just to get my feelings down in writing and see that I had done a good job of handling everything by prioritizing and delegating some of the duties that I could to others who were eager to help. This is a great hub!

      • Glenn Stok profile image
        Author

        Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

        Irma, Thank you for reading and for your question. How did you present your situation to your boss? Try it on a friend and then ask your friend if you came across with a caring attitude or if you sounded like you were complaining. You don't want to sound like the latter.

        Sometimes it's hard to communicate without the other party taking things the wrong way. For that reason we need to give a lot of thought to how we present ourselves. But if you show your boss that you care for his or her feelings, I would be surprised that they forced more work on you. Even someone who is having a bad day would respond well if you display that you have an understanding of their side of things.

        I would be glad to hear your reply to this. Did I hit upon the reason for the dilemma?

      • profile image

        irma 6 years ago

        Hi Glenn,

        Good advice... if you're dealing with rational people.

        Just curious, what would recommend for a boss who might not be so understanding or appreciative (or mentally stable). I have tried the conversation on a couple of occasions, and I get so-you-think-you-got-problems type responses.

        I tried to have a sit down with the boss last week, and immediately started getting more projects sent my way.

        Something is going to crash and burn, and sometimes I wonder if that's what the boss wants.

        Any advice would be welcome.

        Thanks,

        Irma

      • Glenn Stok profile image
        Author

        Glenn Stok 7 years ago from Long Island, NY

        stephhicks68, Keeping the rest if your life in balance is a hard thing to do when work involves all our time. Be good to yourself during this trying time and try to get enough sleep. The last thing you want to do is get run-down. Thanks for reading and the up vote. Oh and thanks for following.

      • stephhicks68 profile image

        Stephanie Hicks 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Really sound advice! I am currently overwhelmed with a lot of work for a new/former boss. I enjoy the work and the pay, but its hard to keep other parts of my life in balance. Rated up!

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