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My boss doesn't approve of PT working - I think I am being squeezed out of my job

(5 Posts)
blueskythinker Mon 11-Aug-08 22:09:10

I have posted about this before

I returned from Maternity leave earlier this year, on a part-time flexible working arrangement (2 x 10 hour days a week). I manage a small unit developing policy in the public sector.

At the time, my boss approved my PT working application for 3 months, to be reviewed, but told me that he 'was not a fan' of part-time working. My PT status was to be reviewed at the start of July, but this has not been done yet.

In early July, out of the blue, he advised me that he was taking a valued member of staff from me, to be replaced by a part time member of staff who had no interest or experience in my specialised field.

Whilst it does not sound like much, this accounts for a 25% reduction in resources, (although I had already lost a further PT member of staff in February this year).

The replacement staff member is simply not up to the job - she spent a full morning last week setting up 3 column headings on a spreadsheet - a nice individual, but she doesn't have the skills which are needed for the role.

I had a meeting with my boss 2 weeks ago, and provided him with details of the Unit's workload (very heavy - all urgent!), and explained that without the resources, I would not be able to deliver on my objectives. He gave me another (urgent) project to do.

I am working at full tilt, bringing work home to do in the evenings, days off and weekends, and even with that, I am not staying on top of the workload. When I had my member of staff I could specify work to be done on a Monday, and when I came in on Friday, it would all be done - this no longer happens. I have had 2 meetings with my boss, asking for more resources, to no avail. My most recent one was this morning.

I am aware I am starting to ramble here - but basically I feel so out of control. I cried all the way home in the car tonight, because I feel so overwhelmed. I cannot (and do not want to) increase my hours, because I have childcare difficulties. Yet, with having staff cut, and extra work placed on me, I feel my options are:

1. Increase my hours: I don't want to, but I feel like I am being forced into a position where I have to.
2. Look for another post in the company: I don't want to - I am good at my job, I enjoy it, and it suits me. It will be almost impossible to find another part-time post.
3. Go sick - this is making me ill, but it is not a good strategy, long term or short term
4. Start making sex discrimination noises - it will not help me, but I genuinely think this may be the root issue here.

Sigh. Words of advice / consolation would be much appreciated.

flowerybeanbag Mon 11-Aug-08 22:47:43

I think there is a fourth option. Address this situation with your boss.

I would assume you said to your boss at the point that it was decided to take away further resources from your team that it was completely impossible to meet your current targets/objectives with those resources? What was the response, and how was the meeting left? Did you set a date for reviewing the effectiveness of the new resource level and agree what would happen if it was not working?

When you met again 2 weeks ago and discussed the over-heavy workload, how come you came away with more work? I know it's easy for me to sit here and say put your foot down, but if you are meeting with your boss to say your team has too much work and not enough resources to cope with it, you should be at the very least refusing further projects until the issue is resolved.

is there a possibility you are not being firm enough about this because you are worried any refusal of extra work or similar protest will result in your arrangement being taken away?

Is all this extra work necessary for your team to do, and have you put forward a proposal as to how it can be achieved?

If you think you could increase your hours then clearly money is not the reason for taking away resources. What is, do you think? What reason are you being given?

Why are you being given inappropriate team members with no say? Surely if you are a manager you should have at least some say in the recruitment of staff that report to you? What's happening there? Did you protest about that?

When you say you think sex discrimination is the issue, what do you actually mean by that? Do you just mean your boss has a prejudice against flexible working? The public sector is generally very good at supporting flexible working so I expect there is a fairly robust and helpful flexible working policy at your disposal. I am assuming your request was a formal one put in place using that policy?

If it was due to be reviewed in July why hasn't that happened? Was a date set for a meeting and why didn't it take place? Has a new date been set?

This arrangement isn't working at the moment, but (to my knowledge based on what you've said) that isn't because your job can't be done on your hours, it's because resources have been taken away in the middle of your trial period. I think you need to set a date for a review of the whole situation to include your flexible working arrangement and ask for HR attendance or input. If it's a flexible working request being trialled then presumably they are aware of the situation so involving them won't be a major thing.

If your boss decides to refuse your application based on the fact that there is too much work, you can appeal it, and you have plenty you can say. If there is money for you to do extra hours then there is money for additional staff, and for the right staff who can do the job properly, or even for a job share for your role if necessary. The only valid reason he could give for refusing your request is if your job can't be done part time. That hasn't been proven as yet I don't think, and he would find it difficult to do so.

I think it would be a good idea to go and see someone in HR and talk through your situation. I don't think you need to necessarily make 'sex discrimination noises' but this trial period is not what it should be so you should ask for their advice on how to get a reasonable trial period. As I said, I expect there is a robust flexible working policy which will support you and which they will be used to working with, even if your boss isn't.

Lastly, have a think about your boss's motivation. If all of this is purely because he doesn't want you to work part time, that's quite extreme. Is there nothing else influencing his behaviour? Does he value you as an employee more generally? If he feels so strongly about part time working that he'd go to these lengths, why did he agree to a trial period in the first place?

I've asked lots of questions, and it's not really because I want or need you to answer them, it's just to show you my thinking and to get you thinking. It sounds as though you are being walked over more than a manager should, and you are not making nearly enough fuss because you are worried about losing your arrangement. That's understandable in a way, but it's not helping you or your health. You need to bring it to a head and get this resolved or at least a further trial period with guaranteed resources to replicate a 'normal' working environment.

flowerybeanbag Mon 11-Aug-08 22:58:24

Ooh, and to decide which option you go with you need to think about what (achievable) end result you want out of this and do whichever one is most likely to achieve that for you.

If you go off sick, then what? I'm not saying don't - if you're not well enough to work then that's obviously an option to consider, but what will happen then? How will that help you and your situation? It might, I don't know, but you need to consider the impact of all these options on your situation.

The looking for another job option, don't dismiss it out of hand. Why will be be impossible to find another part time post? Why do you have to stay with the same employer? If you're good at your job you could do it or something similar elsewhere presumably?

It sounds as though increasing hours isn't an option for you, which is fine.

When you talk about an option of making noises about sex discrimination, do you mean a grievance? I think there are avenues to be explored before that, given the effect that is likely to have on your job and your working relationship with your boss, if you do want to stay in your current job.

I'm off to bed now!

blueskythinker Mon 11-Aug-08 23:48:04

Thanks flowery,

I think you have hit the nail on the head - I am terrified of losing my flexible working because I am so unhappy with my childcare arrangements, but I console myself that it is only 2 days a week (issues for another thread smile). I also need to have my annual appraisal (also due in June) and am concerned that if I start making a fuss, it will be reflected in that.

When I say public sector, I mean policing, so it is a completely male dominated environment, flexible working has only just been introduced, and is not at all widespread (or supported, especially at the higher levels). We are also, ultimately, a disciplined organisation, so I cannot refuse to do something - the bottom line, is that you do what the boss tells you, no matter whether you are a manager or not.

One of the issues is that our Departmental resourcing is counted in terms of bodies / grades - so there are XX civilian grades / and XX police grades - it is not worked out in terms of salary. So me working part-time, means that I am using up one 'post' so to speak.

My boss's rationale for doing this was that there was a 'business need' in another area, and his reply to any objection I raise is that everyone needs to do more with less. Having said that, our Continuous Improvement Unit conducted a review of our Dept staffing levels in March, and they were happy with my Unit, in fact they recommedned that some of the ancillary responsibilities be taken away from the Unit as we were so busy. My boss has completely departed from this report, saying that they were 'only recommendations'.

I want to answer the questions you have raised - they are all very valid, but I am so knackered - I need to go to bed. I will check in tomorrow. smile

blueskythinker Mon 18-Aug-08 21:23:25

Flowery,
Thanks for your response before. I went to see the head of our diversity unit today about my predicament.

She had some very interesting things to say - apparently my boss has form for this before - a very widely respected woman from his previous department ended up leaving the organisation (after she was severely ill from stress) because he basically kept heaping more & more work on her and took away her resources.

She has asked me to supply details of all the dates / notes of meetings / correspondence where I have asked for resources, as well as other supporting documentation. I am also giving her a copy of all my projects, and she is going to send the details to another senior individual in the organisation for indepedent review.

Just talking about the issue helped me relaise that there are other issues which are undermining me - for example, him giving work directly to my subordinates, with no reference to me (which is basically taking my staff away from the tasks I need them to do).

She has also suggested some individual session for 'empowerment' training to help me to say no without feeling like I am on the defensive [great idea!].

All in all, I am feeling a little more positive about the situation. My desk is still overflowing, and I still put in a 10 hour day yesterday when I should have been at home with the kids, but I don't feel like I am hitting my head against a wall any more.

Thanks for your advice.

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