I've inherited a direct who is not happy.

When he was hired (before I arrived), the hiring manager laid out an expectation of 40-hour workweeks with a few late nights here and there. That situation has changed recently and the nature of his job is such that he's been working 14-hour weekdays and at least one day each weekend.

He's in a salaried position, so he's not getting any compensation for the extra hours and he's one of the few team members with a wife and children... I know he's missing dinners most nights and some weekend personal activities.

Now that I'm his new manager, and I've inherited this situation, I want to address his unhappiness. We don't have the budget to hire another body. Indeed, it's not that the volume of work has increased, it's that it now comes at odd hours and needs to be completed immediately. What do I do to ensure this top performer doesn't get disgusted and burned out?

AManagerTool's picture

[quote]Indeed, it's not that the volume of work has increased, it's that it now comes at odd hours and needs to be completed immediately. [/quote]
How about an "on-call" system that allows him to come in only during those odd times? What about paid-time off where someone else (you) covers? There are things that you need to watch out for with these alternatives but the ARE alternatives.

HMac's picture

In addition to tool's good suggestions:

Can he complete any of the work remotely?

Can he "share" responsibilities with another employee (something like one week "on", one week "off")?

and maddy - congratulations on recognizing and surfacing the problem. Having a candid discussion with the employee (maybe it's that the original "deal" in the meployment has changed) will go a long way with him. It won't solve the problem, but it will buy you some time and flexibility in addressing it.


kklogic's picture

A quick additional thought - can you give him a spot bonus, gift cards, or SOMETHING to show in a tangible that you recognize and appreciate his efforts? Do you offer concierge services there (company paid or not)? For instance, most dry cleaners will pick up and deliver -- you can have stamps available for purchases and a post office run -- basically anything you can do so your folks are getting their personal errands attended to.

It does concern me though that you have no budget for additional bodies when you have employees working this many hours. It'll cost the company FAR more when you lose the good ones you have.

maddy's picture

Thank you all for the suggestions. I had a conversation with him this morning to discuss what we could do to help him cope with the situation. He seemed greatly relieved by the fact that his changed workload was noticed by someone else and acknowledged. He said it upset him that the previous manager had simply assumed he was available 24/7/365. He told me a story of an 11:00pm Christmas Eve project request this past December that he felt was ridiculous. (It sounded way over the line to me as well.)

He's actually willing to work those evenings and weekend days -- provided we ask him in advance if he's available instead of handing over deadlines and assuming he'll be around. We've also set up a way for him to work remotely, so he doesn't have to come into the office. And on days when he's not availble, I'm going to take over the process.

He seemed much more relaxed and open to conversation with the rest of the team after our talk this morning. I think we're heading back in the right direction.

Thanks for the great advice!

HMac's picture

Nicely done, maddy! Good for you, for being caring and open enough to address the issue. An M-T manager!


kevdude's picture

[quote]he's been working 14-hour weekdays and at least one day each weekend... We don't have the budget to hire another body.[/quote]
Am I missing something? I agree with kklogic - this just does not make sense. I would never work for a company where virtual slavery is considered normal and expected of my directs (or me either). If I were you I would have a chat with your manager and let her know this is unacceptable.
[quote]He's actually willing to work those evenings and weekend days ... on days when he's not availble, I'm going to take over the process.
Well done for keeping him happy [i]for now[/i] - but I wonder if this really is solved. I still think he is headed for burnout (even with the "remote work") and you may be going that way yourself. You sound like a hands-on manager but the more hands-on you become the less of a manager you actually are. Is that what you want?

As a manager, imho, your primary objective in this situation should be to get another resource in there asap, even if they are part-time. Consider the cost of acting vs. the cost of not acting on this. Sounds like this guy has too much IP that your company can't afford to lose - which to me is worth forking out the budget to get another head in there. If your company "can't afford it" is your company really worth working for?

maddy's picture

You're right, kevdude, the real problem is far from solved. The actual issue is systemic throughout the entire organization. From the topmost reaches of the company, the atmosphere is one of shoddy work, ongoing "emergencies", and no personal time away from the job. Tonight, as usual, I was handed a project at 6:30pm that has to be completed by 9:00am that entails 5-6 hours of work.

I'm planning my exit for the end of June, but while I'm here, I'm having a hard time stopping the flow of awful behavior affecting my own people. I wonder if I should flat-out encourage them to start looking for new work? In my estimation, the situation isn't going to improve unless there's a major cultural overhaul in the organization.

AManagerTool's picture


Good job in dealing with the work overload of your staff member.

I get upset at my corporation as well. We are understaffed and they are constantly shoving our necks on the chopping block. We feel insecure and overworked every day. Welcome to the American workforce of 2008! That said, I would never encourage my staff to leave. I am a professional manager and that would violate the trust that my employer has vested in me. My professionalism transcends my company, it's policies, it's mistakes and it's stupidity. :roll:

No, I never drank the corporate Kool-aid. I just feel that the ultimate statement of displeasure that I can make is to leave in a professional manner...BTW, I am currently looking around for just that reason. I assume that my staff has the same common sense and professionalism that I do. Therefore, I don't have to hold the door open for them. :wink:

HMac's picture

Tool's right, maddy - If you encourage your staff to leave, you're crossing a line of professionalism as a manager. You certainly have every right to express your displeasure UPWARD in the organization, and you're right to be questioning for yourself whether you ought to leave. But that's it.

And if I were the hiring manager at a place you were interviewing, and I learned you had encouraged your staff to look elsewhere, then you'd be dead to me as a candidate. Sorry. You might be great. And that place might really stink. But I'd see you as a risky bet as a manager, and I'd immediately look toward other candidates.