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Sunday, November 15, 2009

hours cut, workload increased

A reader writes:

I was recently hired as a Personal Assistant/Office Manager at a non-profit organization and I love my job!

However, there is one issue. During the interview process, I was told I would be working 24 hours a week. Once they called me and said I was hired, I was told (in the same conversation) that the position had been changed to 18 hours a week due to finances. I accepted the job and have been there almost a month.

The previous Personal Assistant who retired has trained me and still volunteers there a couple times a week. I have realized that my boss is expecting me to perform the same amount of work in 18 hours that previously was done in 24 hours a week, AND take on new responsibilities such as designing artwork for banners, and other various time consuming tasks. I am having trouble keeping up even though I am experienced, have been trained and fully understand my duties.

My lack of time is not because of a learning curve. The previous person in my position told me that she doesn't know how the heck I will accomplish this in 18 hours a week. I handle the finances so I can see that there is wiggle room in the budget, but only by cutting back on other things. They have already saved money by hiring me at a lower hourly rate than my predecessor.

There are two possibilities here. Either:

1. Your boss is guilty of sloppy thinking -- knowing she wants to save money and just hoping that this plan will make it happen, without thinking through how it'll actually work to cut the hours by 25% while increasing the workload.


2. The previous assistant was really inefficient, and they'd been unhappy with how little she was accomplishing. In looking at the workload, they felt it reasonably could be done in fewer hours per week, and with more work on top of it.

So what you need to do is talk to your boss and figure out what's going on. Say something like this: "I know this position was recently cut by 25%, from 24 hours to 18 hours, but from what I understand, the workload wasn't cut at all. In fact, it seems like the workload has actually been increased. I'm concerned about my ability to do in 18 hours what Ellen was doing in 24 hours, plus having more work on top of that. So I wanted to find out from you what the thinking was with my position: Were you thinking that Ellen wasn't as efficient as she could have been, and so therefore the cut in hours shouldn't matter if her replacement works at a higher level? Or is there something else going on that I'm not seeing?"

Now, your boss may say that Ellen wasn't inefficient at all, but that money is tight and so they were just forced into cutting the hours. If that happens, tell her that you understand and would like to talk about what changes to make to the job so that the workload matches the cut in hours. If this is what's going on, she probably hasn't fully thought through the reality of the situation, so you may need to be explicit: "On the face of it, I'm not sure it's realistic for me to take on the same workload as she did with fewer hours. Did you have ideas for how that would work?"

Assuming that she doesn't, you can then respond with something like: "I see a couple of possibilities: I'd be happy to increase my hours to get it all done, or if that's not an option, I have some suggestions for projects to remove from this role."

If she's not willing to remove any projects from your plate, then you say, "I'm concerned about setting myself up for failure here. I can certainly keep all of this on my plate, but I think we're in agreement that it's not realistic to do the same amount in less time, so clearly some things aren't going to get done. I'd rather talk about what those items should be, so that we're deliberate about it, rather than just having things fall through the cracks or be a rush job that isn't high quality."

On the other hand, if it's option #2, and Ellen wasn't performing at a high level, then your boss's expectations might be reasonable. If your she tells you that, try to take it with an open mind and see how things go over the next few weeks. Look for efficiencies (if Ellen trained you, maybe her training wasn't the best), cut out time-wasters, and see if you still have a problem on your hands. If you do, then you go back to your boss and raise the issue again.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Possibly your boss wants you to work the 24+ hours but only wants to pay you for 18 hours.

It looks like the hours for the job was set by the company finances and not by the job requirements.

Ann said...

Keep your eyes open, because if the nonprofit's finances get worse, so may your situation. I was recently laid off from a non-profit. In the years that preceded the lay off, the pattern described was repeatedly used to decrease costs. Previously outsourced were given to employees regardless of their capacity to complete them, and as staff left or were let go, their work load was added to that of a remaining employee. Maybe things will get better, but this may just become an increasingly frustrating place to work. And I think "Anonymous" is right, it looks like the hours were set by the organization's finances.

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with Ann. My four co-workers and I are doing the job that was previously done by 8 people, and they keep adding more to the workload. The only guidance we get is 'just do the best you can'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice everyone. As AAM suggested, I am going to try to streamline the position as much as I can by finding more efficient ways to do my job. If that doesn't solve the problem then I will have to have that conversation with my boss about what we can possibly change. Thanks!

Job Resume Search said...

Well i think the first one is saying quite right. I am totally agree with his opinion. I also think that your boss want you to work for 24 hours but don't to give full pay.

Bozenia said...

I have a similar question. My boyfriend (OK, I'm not one of THOSE girlfriends I promise!) has been at his job for a year. Its his first salaried position with full benefits, he likes what he does, the people he works with, and his boss really loves him. In fact, I met him for the first time recently and he kept telling me how awesome he was.

But, when he was hired they told him he was "M-F and Saturdays as needed". In retrospect, he knows he should have inquired what "as needed" meant, but he was too excited to be doubling his pay and to have health benefits to weigh it clearly.

I have encouraged him to tell his boss what he keeps telling me: he doesn't mind working OT when necessary, but he now works 3 out of 4 Saturdays a month and he's getting burned out. Plus, he hasn't gotten a yearly raise/ performance evaluation, and he didn't factor the extra driving into the original pay negotiation.

What would be an effective, appropriate way to go about doing this?

Thanks guys!!

Ask a Manager said...

Bozenia, he's been there a year; it's time to ask for a raise. He should also talk to his boss candidly about how many Saturdays he's working and ask the boss (a) for alternatives and (b) how long it has to be like that. If the boss doesn't foresee it ending soon or isn't willing to let up on him, it may be time to look for another job.