Last time (see "How to Stop Being Overworked: I," Point Lookout for October 12, 2011), we examined strategies for controlling overwork when the cause is our own behavior. In many cases, though, the cause is a supervisor's abusive behavior. Let's now examine what can be done in such instances.
- Know how to identify abusive overloading
- Abusive overloading can be general or specific. When it's general, everyone within the abuser's span of control is subject to overwork. When it's specific — aimed at an individual or individuals — it might be bullying, or possibly a tactic of discrimination or harassment.
- In either case, the abuser is usually aware that people are overworked, and might even acknowledge it. Some experience a feeling of elation or joy when the people overworked complain, falter, or show signs of stress. Or they might express perverse pride in the group's productivity, especially when there has been obvious personal sacrifice.
- Know the policies and procedures of your employer
- Your employer or union undoubtedly has policies and procedures pertaining to expected work hours. Learn what they are. Learn how to file grievances. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions and for most employees, there is little legal protection against abusive supervisors, unless the employee is a member of a protected class, which is a legal term that describes factors that cannot be targeted for discrimination or harassment. The factors include race, sex, national origin, religion, and the like, but in many jurisdictions, you might not belong to a legally protected class.
- Even if you do, before filing a grievance, be certain that there is protection from retaliation. The best measure of protection is past behavior. If there has been retaliation against others who have filed grievances, then think twice.
- Know your own role
- It's possible that you yourself are playing a role in the abuse, especially if the pattern has persisted over time. For example, never having investigated how to use the formal grievance process, even on an anonymous basis, could be an indicator that you have done nothing about the situation. Ask yourself, "Have I let opportunities to invoke higher authority go by?"
- If you It's possible that you yourself
are playing a role in the abuse,
especially if the pattern
has persisted over timecan reasonably conclude that you've been at least passively complicit in the abuse pattern, the next questions are even more difficult. They pertain to your motives, and what you've gained from the pattern of severe overwork. For instance, excessive hours at work can provide a haven from unhappiness, emptiness, or other troubles in your personal life. Investigating this side of things on your own is possible, but it can be challenging unless you have the aid of a counseling professional.
Always keep in mind that internal transfer or changing jobs may be the best — or least bad — options. No matter how depressed the economic environment, if you make the right changes, a change in job can be the path from overwork to a fuller, richer life. First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Ten Tactics for Tough Times: II
- When you find yourself in a tough spot politically, what can you do? Most of us obsess about the situation
for a while, and then if we still have time to act, we do what seems best. Here's Part II of a set of
approaches that can organize your thinking and shorten the obsessing.
- Managing Pressure: The Unexpected
- When projects falter, we expect demands for status and explanations. What's puzzling is how often this
happens to projects that aren't in trouble. Here's Part II of a catalog of strategies for managing
- On Snitching at Work: II
- Reporting violations of laws, policies, regulations, or ethics to authorities at work can expose you
to the risk of retribution. That's why the reporting decision must consider the need for safety.
- When the Answer Isn't the Point: II
- Sometimes, when we ask questions, we're more interested in eliciting behavior from the person questioned,
rather than answers. Here's Part II of a set of techniques questioners use when the answer to the question
wasn't the point of asking.
- Much of what we call backstabbing is actually just straightforward attack — nasty, unethical,
even evil, but not backstabbing. What is backstabbing?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 25: Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
- And on November 1: Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.
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- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.