how to make sure workload is divided fairly, how to tackle a project you’re dreading, and more

Over at the Fast Track by QuickBase today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: how to make sure your team’s workload is divided fairly, how to tackle a project you’re dreading, and more. You can read it here.

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Kyrielle*

    Oh man, #2. #2 in a company with a firefighting/arsonists culture. (Actually, not so much arsonists, just people who didn’t remove potential “fire hazards” prior to the actual “combustion”.)

    I can’t count the number of good people we saw evaporate shortly after they got to the stage of being high contributors…. Some stick around because they care but far more vanish.

    I miss a lot about that job, but there is a lot I love about my new one. I actually have an avalanche of work here too, but the difference is it is clearly prioritized and there’s a line of “everything below this is a nice-to-have right now” and…it’s in a totally reasonable meetable place. SUCH a nice feeling.

    And it’s not “gosh I feel warm and fuzzy about this” only – I *think* better this way then when frantically scrambling from thing to thing, trying to put out the fires and (metaphorocailly) slide the kerosene away from the radiator.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I love your analogy! To extend it a bit, I love being the Smokey The Bear/fire marshal type who thinks “Man, that’s really unsafe!” and starts agitating for corrective action before it becomes a big fireball. Only I can prevent forest fires :)

    2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      I love this metaphor too!!! I’m going to use it next time I’m trying to explain that I left my old job. All our department did was fight fires/explosions, but when I started making suggestions ala “why don’t we slide that kerosene away from radiator” – I was met with such resistance. They genuinely preferred (thrived even) running from fire to fire, whereas I am an excellent “Smokey the Bear”. I just needed to find an environment that actually wanted a “Smokey the Bear”.

  2. Cath in Canada*

    I enjoyed the “when to settle for good enough” article in particular. I’ve been cured of perfectionism by working with various people who treat the text they’ve requested from me as a means to figuring out what they actually want – they don’t seem to be able to articulate this until they have something in front of them that isn’t what they wanted it to be. This despite me providing several outlined suggestions in an attempt to proactively figure out the requirements. It was very frustrating at first to spend hours on something with minimal input and have it come back with an “actually, please write something completely different instead”, and I’ve worked with a couple of people who took it to an extreme that made me stop doing anything like my best work on first drafts – but overall, it was quite good for me!

  3. Girasol*

    #2 Uneven loading isn’t fair for those who aren’t the top contributor either. How often does it happen that every job that needs to be done right goes to the #1 employee while the trainees and the average and up-and-coming people are sitting idle? The best employee can easily get into “It’d take longer to divide up the work and train people than to do it myself” mode, especially if the manager has led him to think that others lack ability. I’m convinced that if any manager hears the words “Not enough to do?? Hah, there’s plenty of work for everyone!” fall from from her lips she should clap her hand over her mouth and go see why people are asking for more work. It usually means that she has heard loud and clear the #1 employee screaming from overload while the rest of the team is keeping fairly quiet about the lack of work for fear they’ll be fired for failing to contribute.

    1. LQ*

      I get into the it takes longer to train people than to do it myself mindset. (And I sound like my mother in my head :()

      I get that Jane will never be as fast as me. I’m not expecting that. But when something takes me 30 minutes and takes her 3 days? I really start to feel like it isn’t worth it, especially when that is 2+ hours of my time showing her how to do something I’ve shown her before.

      I figure if it takes someone 10x as long the first time and they can bring it down to around 3-5 times as long? Probably worth my time and theirs to train them to do it. But …20+ times as long? I feel like I’m right that it takes longer and isn’t worth it.

      My boss keeps telling me to hang in there, and eventually they’ll catch on, but it just doesn’t feel like it on some things. (So I do change the tasks I pass off to see if they are better at others, but that might be a problem too I guess?)

      1. Kyrielle*

        It may or may not work the same for your tasks, but for some of mine, I felt that doing it myself _and then walking them through what I did and why_ was useful. Stopping to analyze it made it take twice as long, but over time it gave additional info. I’d write it up, too – then we could reuse it with other people. Best of all, if Jane is up to speed and knows how to do it (even if slow-and-methodical only), when Pete needs to know to be able to cover, Jane can teach him with only assists from you.

        Sometimes you legitimately don’t have enough time to train. (Never trained anyone in the heat of a systems-down scenario. Didn’t even analyze in the heat of it. For 911 dispatching, I was too busy getting the system back up.) But when you do, it’s generally worth the time. It’s not just a question of whether it takes Jane longer – a lot of those 30-minutes-for-the-expert class of tasks are interrupters, they come up unexpectedly and they break your flow on more important work. Having Jane slog through them slowly (but immediately) may be sufficient, and let you keep working on something higher-priority.

        1. LQ*

          When it is something done enough I try to go through a I do it once, you do it once while I walk you through it, then I watch you and only answer when you have questions process. I also have taken to having Jane write up the process herself (which takes WAY longer, but when she does that it works so much better). But I don’t have a good process for the softer things, or the messier/less frequent things. That process works great for technical stuff, but I don’t apply it quite as well to non technical things.

          The 30 minute tasks are interrupters though? I’m putting that up next to my monitor to remind me why I’m doing it. So I don’t have to be interrupted since that is my #1 issue with getting work done right now. Thank you! (All I did today was be interrupted, part of why I spent way too much time here today.)

        2. Bluesboy*

          I find it effective to do it once with them watching (and walking them through it, like you). Then have them physically do it with me telling them what to do (even so much as ‘click there’). Then they do it with me just observing. Then they do it and call me if they need help. The idea being that they gradually take on more responsibility for it.

          Obviously it takes more time than explaining it once, but as they have actually physically done it, it seems to work better than an explanation.

          The big problem typically is making sure that you find good examples of the work to do it with – because if for example you have one job which is a little different from normal, with a load of exceptions, that can leave them stuck, and believing that they can’t do it.

          And to your “Having Jane slog through them slowly (but immediately) may be sufficient, and let you keep working on something higher-priority”, I’d like to add yes, yes and YES!

    2. paul*

      I’ve been on both sides of that in different positions and it sucks for everyone. If you’re good you really are just getting dumped on with more work, and if you’re average or below average you don’t get growth opportunities or (at least IME) constructive feedback about how to be better. It’s literally a lose-lose-lose.

    1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      For the novel, it might help to think in terms of just getting a scene done at any one time. Not even a whole chapter, just a scene. Set up your characters on site, the main action, the dialogue, the subtext, the setting, the vibe, then write it.

      Lather, rinse, repeat. :) Good luck with your stories!

  4. Another Emily*

    Done is better than perfect in my office. Do the task methodically, note that you finished the specific thing so you don’t accidentally do it twice, file it sensibly, and move on. Do it right but get it done on time. We don’t build car seats here.

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