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Overworked: Handling Scope Creep in Your Job


Feeling overworked and underappreciated? We’ve all been there. You start a new position feeling confident and excited, only to discover the initial job description barely resembles your daily reality. Maybe a key colleague left unexpectedly, or perhaps the project’s true scope was poorly communicated. Suddenly, you realize you’re chronically overworked and juggling tasks you never signed up for, and the finish line seems perpetually out of sight.

So, what can you do when your workload balloons without a corresponding increase in compensation or resources? Here are some strategies to navigate scope creep and reclaim control of your workday:

Gather Evidence and Analyze the Impact

Take a step back and assess what led to you becoming overworked. Document the new tasks you’ve taken on, including the estimated time commitment for each. Keep track of emails or meetings outlining the additional responsibilities. When did the tide shift—on day one? After a colleague’s departure? The data will be crucial when discussing the issue with your manager.

Next, consider the impact of scope creep on your existing workload. Are deadlines at risk? Is your current quality of work suffering? How is being overworked affecting your stress levels and overall well-being? Try to have a clear understanding of the situation so that solutions can present themselves more easily.

Initiate a Conversation with Your Manager

Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss the evolving job scope. If you’re a temporary employee, talk to your recruiter about the situation to get his/her advice before you approach your onsite manager. Lead the conversation calmly and professionally, focusing on facts and data. Highlight the discrepancies between your initial understanding of the role and the current reality. Use the evidence you gathered to demonstrate the increased workload and its potential consequences.

We know that approaching a manager can be difficult, and most of us would rather not do it. If you need a little pep talk, check out our post, How to Complain to Your Boss.

Explore Options Together

No reasonable manager wants you to feel overworked. The ideal outcome is a collaborative solution. Brainstorm ways to manage the expanded workload effectively. Here are some possibilities:

  • Work with your manager to prioritize tasks. Identify core responsibilities that must be completed and those that can be delegated or postponed so that you don’t become overworked.
  • Discuss the need for additional resources, such as hiring a temporary assistant or delegating tasks to a colleague.
  • If a colleague’s departure caused the scope creep, explore options for redistributing their responsibilities within the team.
  • Discuss strategies to optimize your time management. This could involve implementing project management tools or refining your workflow to handle increased demands.

Negotiate for Compensation or Recognition

It’s not petty to consider that your attitude, which is leading you to feel overworked, could be improved with the right compensation or recognition. If the expanded workload requires a significant time commitment, consider negotiating for a raise and/or promotion. Be prepared to present a clear case for why an adjustment is warranted. Highlight the value you’re bringing by taking on these extra tasks and the positive impact on the team or project. For inspiration, check out our posts, How to Ask for Raise and How to Get a Promotion.

Set Boundaries and Manage Expectations

Once a solution is agreed upon, clearly communicate your new boundaries. Discuss realistic timelines for completing tasks and any limitations imposed by the revised workload. This proactive approach helps everyone stay on the same page and prevents misunderstandings in the future. Chances are that you’ve practiced boundary-setting, as many have since the pandemic. But if you’re still feeling overworked, you may have some brushing up to do. Check out our post, Setting Boundaries at Work Without Quiet Quitting, for tips.

Know When to Walk Away

Unfortunately, not all situations are salvageable. If your manager dismisses your concerns or is unwilling to find a workable solution, it might be time to consider your options (even if it’s a new job). Ask yourself if the company culture is truly a fit. Maybe your career growth is stifled by a lack of support. If so, exploring new opportunities could be the best course of action for your long-term well-being.

Remember, in the end, being overworked is a choice. It may not be an easy or clear one, but a path to a manageable workload and fair compensation does exist. These strategies can help you effectively address scope creep and reclaim control of your workday.

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