I have a direct (who says others feel this way, too) that has difficulty accepting new tasks as an increase in workload.  Even when I assure him that I am willing to accept a decrease in productivity in his other duties.

Other than assuring him that I take all of this into account when doing reviews, how can I help him manage the psychological stress of "too much work to do" ?  

And convince him to stop resisting my attempts at assigning more tasks ?


Listening to MT I hear the MT folks reassure me that a manager's job is to get more productivity out of his folks.  That creating a sense of urgency is a good thing to do.  That assigning new tasks and delegating new responsibilities is what a manger is supposed to do.

We have a new initiative that has been handed down to (me) my department and I am passing some of the work down to my directs.

One of my directs is very resistant and claims that the workload in his regular daily duties is already too much.

This is an hourly direct.  And we rareley approve of overtime.  So basically he works his 37.5 hrs and goes home.

The regular daily duty is one where patron request tickets come into the system 24hrs a day.  And the tickets much be dealt with.  These are Document Delivery requests.

He takes great pride in finishing all of the requests down to zero (0) each day before he leaves.  And he has described the idea that leaving unattended requests as "looming over his head".

I have assured him that as he works on this new project that it is acceptable if not all requests are at zero at the end of his shift.    He says that then the workload will just begin to pile up and cause him more pressure.

II have told him to make sure that he takes all of his breaks and lunches.  

I have told him that I am not asking him for overtime hours. 

I am only asking him to do his best to work the new project into his workflow so that it is completed by the deadline.  Even if other things suffer --- "that's OK".

He still resists.

Are there any suggestions from the forums ?


chris_crabtree's picture
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First, I would stay focused on the behavior change you want *him* to accomplish--don't let him distract you talking about how the others feel.

In his O3, I would spend my time sharing that as a professional, he will always be expected to grow and to do more for the rest of his career. Suspecting from your description that he's a high C, I would lay it out logically: given that you are continually practicing these skills in your job, I think it's reasonable to expect that 30 days from now you should be incrementally better at your current duties than you are today. Just by paying attention and thinking about your work, I believe that is a reasonable expectation. Frankly, it's just how the professional world works.

That's why professionals with more experience are able to deliver more value. I love that you take pride in fulfilling all your requests, and I want to see you take that same pride and apply it to our new project as well. We need to complete it and complete it on time. This is our priority, and if cycle times slip a bit while we do this, that's fine.

Anyway, I would say something like that and try to get his buy-in and understand more about where he's coming from. If you can't get his buy-in, then I would have another conversation with him about whether he is well-suited to this type of career. I would do it with no malice, but out of a place of genuine concern for his career prospects and for the good of the team. But ultimately if he can't be flexible on his work, it seems like he would remain a weak link on your team and be therefore a candidate for being replaced. Also I wonder if there's something about this particular project that he has a problem with or if it's a general unwillingness to be flexible...good luck, and let us know how it turns out!


uncleauberon's picture

Thank you very much for the input.   I have expressed many of these things to him.

I will attempt to say them in a different way.  This week is his mid-year appraisal I will bring up some of this in the most dispassionate way as possible.

One of the points is that he does not consider himself to be a professional. 

He considers himself to be a front line $11/hr ticket taking document delivery man.

And a darn good one. He covered for an employee on vacation for the first week of this year after a whole extra week of holiday buildup of tickets.   He did it well and without complaint.  

He did so well with the quantity and quality of the work that our Executive Director noticed and gave him an overload bonus.

And to him - dealing with those daily tickets and making those deliveries _is_ his job.  He will do it well, with high quality and quantity.  And he does.

 * He has expressed many times that he does not like or want any other duties thrust upon him.  

1 - Other tasks take away quality and quantity from his "real" job.

2 - He is not getting paid enough to justify adding duties.  

His view is, this is what he was hired and paid to do, and he should be evaluated on those duties alone. (No, we are not unionized here - nor do we have contracts)

I do not doubt that adding other duties will affect his productivity at the main tasks.  I am familiar with the job he does.

For two years I have explained that accepting other duties, learning and growing into other duties _is_ also part of his "real" job - regardless of his pay.  He just refuses to accept this reality.

I am planning to tell him (at the mid-year review), point blank, that in the areas of flexibility and accepting new tasks he is performing poorly.  Maybe a written appraisal area that clearly rates as "poor" will wake him up to the reality that, "Yes, this is also part of the job." 

Thanks for the insight --- I will update later.

Other Comments from the forums are welcome.





chris_crabtree's picture
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Interesting. Well, here's something off the wall, then. From your scenario that you described, it sounds like he is indeed *very* good at this exact type of work. In fact, if I'm interpreting your description right, he did the work of almost 3 people during that span of time.

Have you considered just having him do that? I mean, just saying, "hey, I get it--you like doing this one thing and you are super good at it. I need to you to step up your volume consitstently like you have shown you are capable of."

Then take one of your other directs and take him off this document delivery work and have her focus full-time on this project while your non-professional takes up her slack. Your project gets done and all the documents still get delivered.

And then I think you still have almost one additional person of overcapacity if I'm reading his productivity correctly--either repurpose that person to be more useful or cut the position to make more profit.


uncleauberon's picture

Chris,  thanks for the thoughts.  

I have considered that.

I don't want to place all of the eggs in one basket.  I would like there to be at least two people that have experience doing each the jobs here.  Cross-training and hardening against absenteeism.

The way things work now I four people that work under me with various duties.  Two of them are responsible for the Document Delivery tickets.  One of those is now focused about 60% on those tickets and the other (the direct I am speaking about) is about 95% focused on the tickets.

Regardless, when I get new projects and initiatives handed down to me I have assured my staff (the four of them) that if the project can be shared, I will split of the work among everyone in the department, so we can all "share the pain" so to speak.

I don't want to exempt this one direct from that as it sets up a morale hazard amongst the others.

It also doesn't develop him into new duties, nor does it take advantage of his skills.



BLUF - We have worked it out for now - and the tension has subsided.

We had our mid-year review.  And prior to our meeting - last night - he starting doing some of the scanning project.  He did a time study and a analyzed files size, etc..

He started sinking his teeth into the project.  He started discussing some of the details etc.

During our mid-year review I identified his areas of Satisfactory performance and exceptional performance.

And I got to the areas that need improvement where I have seen poor performance.

I mentioned specific behaviors - loud sighs - throwing his hands up in a gesture of resignation - speaking out loudly - raising obstacles and objections to the projects at meetings.

I explained that when he does these behaviors that it comes across to me a showing disrespectful, undermining, inflexible.  I explained that once I give a project that I have thought about it.  That I have tried to take many things into account.

I let him know that I assume that he is concerned about the work and that this is not a simple reluctance to do more work.

He explained it as wanting more details and expressing concerns.

* He expressed that he didn't like the way I approached the topic at the meeting.  And felt that I was dumping this down on the overworked staff and was not listening to any of his suggestions and concerns.

I explained that his behavior seems to me more like rejection, and that he is just trying to find ways to say "no'. 

I clearly said that I need to hear your "YES" in these meeting.  I want to hear his "can do" and "how can I help". 

What he said was interesting -  that once I come down firmly and say that we are doing this, that he doesn't have a choice or he will have to quit.   That I should assume his YES.  Because, he can't say NO.

This is the point where I tried to be very clear.  That his behavior in the meetings were instant objections and negative comments.  I explained again that before he expresses concerns about the details of a project that I need to hear his "YES" or else it is perceived to me and all the others at the meeting as a challenging "NO".

I gave a little, by expressing that some of this may be a communication style issue that we can both work on.  That I will listen to his concerns more in the meeting and try not to come across as dumping work on them in an unconcerned fashion.

He told me that he was never much of a cheerleader. And that he wouldn't jump off his chair with a whoo-hoo to new projects.  I said that was OK, but I would like to hear a positive yes before expressing any negatives.

We finished the review talking about a few details and he left right away and started working with the scanner tech guy who had come in.

In the end, I think we have defused some tension.  And we are getting the project started.

As far, as his behavior at the meetings is concerned, I hope this was a good "shot across the bow".  I clearly identified some of the behaviors,  I told him that it was "poor" performance that needs improvement, and what I would like to see from him in the future.

Let's see how it goes.





mrreliable's picture

I've also dealt with directs who are defiant and sassy. When the lip is coming at you in meetings with other directs, a precedent is established. It's not good for other employees to see this as behavior that is accepted.

I had a direct who, in response to a request for a progress report, gave a flippant, sassy, answer, saying "It will be done when it's done." I spoke with her immediately after the meeting and told her I knew she wasn't intending it that way, but it came across as the verbal equivalent of sticking her middle finger in my face. I told her it scared me to death. Why? Because it only took once for the phrase to be spit out for the other members of the team to start using it. It was an aggravating experience to undo the damage from that one comment.

Sometimes I assign tasks to team members because they're particularly good at it, or they like it, but I've had bad luck with tailoring assignments based on a direct who says, "I don't wanna." All team members are expected to be able to handle all duties. In a few cases I've tried to do that as a desperation effort to salvage the employee situation, but it has ended in termination every time. The directs were fighting to be the one to define their roles within the company, and every time I gave in, the situation got worse. Now I try to identify that attitude early and deal with it before it becomes engrained.

uncleauberon's picture

Hi, maybe you noticed that the subject seemed to change. And it kinda did, for the time being.

This post was originally a question about how to help the Direct deal with the psychological work load.

I don't think there is a good answer for that other than building trust and giving assurance and enough time to deal with it.

Upon reflection, this has been a two year pattern between me and this direct. He publicly and privately resists new tasks when I present them - It is not an actual "no" - it comes as a series of objections and complaints about extra overwork etc....

And then, when I force the issue publicly he gets all upset and wants to have a meeting with me to share his frustrations. I stay firm and address one or two of his concerns.

Then after a few days he takes ownership, asks helpful questions, bites hard into the new project and completes it with high quality and ahead of schedule.

I think I may now have a formula to stop the cycle next time by reminding him about the behavior I expect in meetings. That I want him to express open positive support before he starts expressing any misgivings or concerns.

M-T has really helped me, by teaching to stay focused on behaviors.

Thanks for your input.



leanne's picture
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What's your DISC profile?

His sounds like high C to me. Yours sounds more high D than that.

I twigged to this on this part of your comments about the review:
* He expressed that he didn't like the way I approached the topic at the meeting. And felt that I was dumping this down on the overworked staff and was not listening to any of his suggestions and concerns.

I explained that his behavior seems to me more like rejection, and that he is just trying to find ways to say "no'.

I clearly said that I need to hear your "YES" in these meeting. I want to hear his "can do" and "how can I help".
Most high Cs *do* feel like getting 'we're going to be doing X' and 'I want to hear can do' is dumping on them, and their concerns actually are important to them (whereas they're not important to you).

In general, how do you present this new work to him? Do you say 'hey, we've got this project and I'm giving you this part of it', or 'hey, we've got this project, we really have to do it, let's talk about how we're going to do it and how we can handle it', and then let him talk himself out and ask again 'so, what can we do about it then? We really do have to do this, so I need some help figuring it out'. (Even though you know exactly 'what has to be done', ask him for his thoughts on it. Ask *him* to come up with a solution that works.) He's a perfectionist. He likes consistency. Any changes *do* disturb him. And just telling him 'get over it' - which is what you come across to me in some of the earlier posts - doesn't help him get over it.

And when I say ask, I mean, please have a question mark at the end of your request. So, not, 'tell me how to make it work'; instead, try 'well, do you have any ideas on how we can make it work?'

This will probably happen again and again, and I really do read it as a behavioral-style issue as much as anything else.