Is your schedule jam-packed with assignments every day to the point that time management is the least of your
worries? Do you become anxious each time your boss or supervisor passes by your desk fearing you will get more
Even if you are ambitious, you need to draw the line somewhere and speak up. The thing is, your manager will not
realize that you are overworked till you let him/her know. Here are a few things that you can do and say to make
your boss realize you have too much on your plate without sounding unprofessional:
Solution 1– Cut Yourself Some Slack First
The first thing you need to do is relax and cut yourself some slack. If you feel overworked at work, it does not
mean that you are not a good employee. Most organizations always try to do more with less to ensure a favorable
bottom line. You just happen to be a part of that process, which means that there is more work for you to do and
less time to do it in.
If you have proven yourself already, turning down a request or two or asking for a reprieve should not hurt. If
your manager or boss is understanding and professional, the decision will not reflect badly on you. In fact, it
may even increase your credibility as your employers realize that you understand your own potential.
Most bosses want you to speak up if there is anything that is preventing you from performing at your best. Yes,
it will be uncomfortable at first as no one wants to admit that they cannot handle an assigned task with their
job on the line. However, realize that it is the responsible and smart thing to do.
Think about it. If you are overburdened, you will not be able to meet your commitments, much less organizational
goals. Once you realize this, the stress of confronting your boss with your request should ease.
Solution 2 – Determine Whether Your Request Is Reasonable or Not
Before you try to confront your boss about the extra work you are assigned, first determine if the effort is
worth it or not. Here are some things you should consider:
- Do you wish to remain in your current position for long? If you are just an intern or only have a few
months left on the job for instance, just get through the workload since you’ll be out of there shortly. If
you love the job and plan on remaining for a few years, addressing the issue will be worth your while.
- Does the request deviate from your job description as well as typical work practices the organization
expects from all employees? Or do you think you are being taken advantage of? To set relevant expectations
for what you think is reasonable for your line of work, ensure that you have the lay of the land first. If
someone offers you a new position, ask them the number of hours you are expected to work and the
responsibilities you have.
Solution 3 – Prepare by Asking Yourself Some Questions
Before setting up that meeting with your boss, ask yourself some basic questions first. These will help you
internalize your intent so you can demand a lower workload without flinching:
- What do I want for myself?
- What do I expect from my boss?
- What do I expect to get from our work relationship?
The answers to these questions will help you determine what you expect to gain from your hard work. After
this, you can move ahead and ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the facts of the issue you are facing? Examine them neutrally as an observer to determine
whether you are really overworked, or just over-thinking.
- What does your proposed solution do for you and for the company?
- How do you think your boss will react and how will you react if the result is unfavorable?
Solution 4 – Try to Role Play Before Facing Your Boss
Once you have the answers to the aforementioned questions, play out the entire scenario with someone you
Begin by first explaining the whole situation to them and share your feelings about it without sounding
accusatory. Then, ask your partner to be you as you play the role of your boss.
Play out the scenario this way taking note of both reactions and the words used. Then, switch roles and repeat
the rehearsal. By doing so you will be able to gain insight from your own actions as well as someone else’s
perspective and enhance the way you navigate this tricky meeting.
Once you have a good idea of what you need to say, broach the subject with your boss. The meeting request
include the nature of the issue. So instead of saying ‘I want to have a meeting with you regarding my massive
workload’, instead say that ‘I have been going through my performance objectives for the last few months and
have some ideas I would like to discuss with you. Would tomorrow at 3 pm be a good time?”
By veiling your request as a business solution, you will have a far better chance of scoring an in-depth
meeting. Remember, the company is not yours. You just work there. Your boss determines your workload but by
letting him know how you can perform better with a compact, yet efficient workload, you may even be considered
for a promotion.
Solution 5 – Get More Information
Most conflicts between employees and supervisors are the result of assumptions. Both think they know
there is to know about the other’s situation and that they are in the right, not the other party. However,
are always two sides to every story and there may be something you may not be aware of about your boss and why
he is overburdening you.
So instead of marching up to his/her office in a rage demanding lesser work, step back and explore yours and
your boss’s story. Share how you are feeling and ask them why you have been getting more assignments than your
job demands. Perhaps the company faced major losses recently or had to let go a few people and are trying to
make up the loss in productivity.
In other words, make sure that it is a two-way discussion and not an argument in which both of you try to best
the other. Share what you are worried about and where you are coming from. Then, wait for your boss to explain
the situation from his/her perspective. It will help you understand potential gaps in your understanding.
It is easy to assume that your supervisor knows you are overworked and doesn’t care. However, the truth may
surprise you and may even make you a better employee. To sum it all up, the key is communication and
understanding perspectives other than your own.
Solution 6 – Learn How To Say ‘No’
If your boss refuses to reduce your workload even after you discussed the issue with him using the
aforementioned tips, learn how to say no. This will be uncomfortable at first but these simple tactics can
help you turn down your boss easy:
In other words, propose a proactive solution rather than a refusal. That way, your boss will realize that you
are overworked and are diligent enough to come up with a solution rather than a complaint. In other words, you
will be seen as an asset rather than a complainer.
- Buy time. When your supervisor adds more paperwork to an already large pile, buy yourself some time by
that you already have a lot on your plate and will let him/her know if the extra work is doable that day or
- Come up with an alternative solution that works in your favor. Rather than saying no bluntly, suggest other
solutions that can get that paperwork done without burdening yourself. For example, you can say you have
time to take on half of the workload and the other half should be assigned to someone else or you can do it
The fact is that all of us feel overworked at our jobs at some point in time. It’s when the work starts to
intrude in our personal life and health is when it becomes a problem. However, you still need the job to pay
bills so a diplomatic approach to it will be best. So if you are burning out, meet with your boss and have an
open and honest discussion using the aforementioned solutions. If nothing works, the job may not be worth the