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Please help - too much pressure at work; can't take much more

(29 Posts)
emsiewill Sat 26-Jun-04 21:32:04

This is going to be long, I'm sure, so please bear with me...

So here's the story. Up until about 2 months ago, I was working in a team which consisted of me, a colleague and our manager. We worked well as a team, I covered one area, my colleague covered another, and our manager pulled it all together, and made sure everything was working as it should. We started off fulfilling a quality assurance / technical advice role, but over time we added training to that - which fitted in quite well, and I found I enjoyed training people, as well as supporting them one-to-one.

So everything was hunky-dory, until the company decided that quality and training were a waste of money, and started squeezing my manager out - not letting her in on meetings, giving her edited minutes etc. She couldn't take it after a while, and left before she was pushed (there have been quite a few redundancies recently).

That left me and my colleague. We were told that our manager was not going to be replaced, we were absorbed into another (non-training related) team, and told to get on with what projects we already had started pending us being absorbed into the production side of things. However, training needs kept cropping up (related to the area that I had no experience in), so we were kept busy dealing with them, and I was slowly learning the ropes.

Then, 2 weeks after my manager left, my colleague went on secondment - applied on the Friday 3pm, started on the following Monday. Leaving me in charge of an area that I only vaguely know about or understand.

There is no-one in overall charge of training - it's just me. In the last week, I have been asked to arrange 3 training course for 100 people at 3 sites, and it has to happen NOW. The people asking me to do this have no interest in the fact that it is almost impossible to do this. Any time I try and explain, I am made to feel incompetent and as if I am making excuses. I can't do any job thoroughly, I have lots of ideas on how things should be done - record keeping etc, but no time to do it and no back up - they say "ask if you need support", but don't understand that it would take longer to explain to someone who has no knowledge of the area what to do than to do it myself.

I am really concerned that to save money, the company will decide that I'm enough to cover training co-ordination and planning. Bearing in mind this is a £multi-million company with nearly 500 employees, and I work 30 hours a week, have no previous experience in training co-ordination and planning, and have been given no power to make suggestions / changes - I am supposed to respond to the demands of people who have different priorities, this is surely a recipe for disaster, with me as the sitting duck?

On top of everything, of my 6 hours a day, I am currently delivering training for 2 of those hours every day - a commitment I made before I was on my own and one which I don't want to back out of - then I'd be as bad as "them". But this obviously adds to the pressure.

I have arranged 2 training courses for tomorrow at another site, but as the trainer only confirmed on Friday 4pm that she was going there tomorrow, there are not going to be enough people to fill both courses. so I am going to look like a disorganised fool. I am seriously considering taking a sicky tomorrow, to avoid the cutting and sarcastic emails that I will receive from my manager's manager when it all goes tits up.

I have come home from work in tears again today, as I have a number of times over the past weeks, I feel so powerless. If I tell my manager that I can't do this any more, I am worried that he'll just say "well it's that or nothing". He's a 24 year old, who to be fair is very pleasant, but is under a lot of pressure himself and does not really have the time to concern himself with my problems. I can't afford to change jobs - dh recently had to take a £5K pay cut, and it would be hard for me to find another job round here that pays as much as my current one without going full time (and maybe not even then), which I don't want to do.

I will be having a one-to-one with my manager in the next week, and I will try to explain all of this to him, but I really don't want to break down in tears in front of him - he wouldn't have a clue what to do - and anyway, he'll just think that I'm making excuses for my incompetence.

If you have managed to read this far, thanks for your time. Does anyone have ay experience of this kind of thing, and any advice to offer?

lalaa Sat 26-Jun-04 21:53:20

Loads of sympathy....<<<<hug>>>>

My job has become too big too, so I do kind of know where you are coming from.

Advice: you definitely need to speak to your manager. Could you write up your concerns (write it, then edit it as you will go into loads of detail - I've done it before and it really helps) and send it to him in advance of the meeting so that he doesn't feel on the back foot, and so that he might be able to look into some other options before you meet.

I think you are being too good to the company - if you can't do the 2 hours training any more, then don't feel bad about saying you can't do it. Put your mental health first. In your write up of the issues, make suggestions about how you think things could change for the better - this could be one thing, at least temporarily while they look for a replacement for your colleague on secondment.

Don't take the sicky tomorrow - that will make you look worse and at least if you are there you can deal with the e-mails straight away and start making the point that you are completely overstretched and unable to provide a quality service when you are effectively now covering three people's jobs.

Your manager HAS to find time for your problems - that's his role as a line manager. If you don't get any joy there, is there a HR team you can refer too? Be a little cautious here (they do, work to protect the company's interests), but make sure that they know that you are feeling very stressed as the company has a legal obligation to safeguard your health and safety, and stress falls into that.

Final bit of advice (need to put dd in the bath), try to start feeling assertive about this rather than upset. They are out of order, not you. Harder to do than to say, I know. REmember that you are actually very good at your job given the right circumstances in which to work and they are lucky to have you.


WideWebWitch Sat 26-Jun-04 22:50:40

Well, I have plenty of experience of working for f***wits emsiewill and a recent particularly nasty one working for a Tosser McToss too as you may have seen, so I'll help if I can.

I agree with lala, someone above you needs to prioritise and do it well. The fact is that merging the workload of 3 people into one person isn't going to work! but, as the 1 person left, you need to tell your manager this, calmly and professionally and ask him to prioritise the workload.

Don't take a sicky (though I know how tempting it is!), go in and cover your arse as early as possible (is this do-able?). Email your manager explaining why the situation has turned out the way it has: i.e. the trainer didn't confirm; this isn't really part of your remit, they were last minute requests, whatever the reasons are. And then stop worrying about that bit, for the moment anyway. Is there any way you can merge the 2 courses tomorrow? Just a thought. But tell him you need an urgent meeting about this whole issue. He needs to make it his business, especially if his manager is going to take an interest, as you suspect he will.

Next, I'd complete a spreadsheet or some other document (but hey, I'd do a spreadsheet, I am chart queen!) showing all the work you are tasked with every week. Allocate times to each task/project and priorities and make sure the document clearly shows that it is impossible for one person to do this amount of work in the time available (if it is impossible and you seem to be saying it is). If you're working smart already, point this out. If I were you, I'd show for each task/issue: a raised or starting date; a target completion date; previous owner (i.e,. your colleague or manager); current issue/task owner, i.e, YOU; hours needed to complete task; priority and anything else that's relevant. Make it clear which areas were previously covered by your manager or your colleague. If any of these tasks have big impacts in the case of non completion, make sure you note this LOUD AND CLEAR! He needs to know so he can decide on appropriate action. If you have suggestions about what could go/be pushed elsewhere then include those too. The sheet needs to be clear and you should be able to show that the work outstanding = 123 man hours vs your available time = 30 man hours. Shouldn't be hard by the sound of it!

I'd go to him with this document (be thorough, be very sure it's accurate) and very calmly discuss it. Ask *him* to let you know how he'd like to prioritise this task list. It's not acceptable to say 'well, it all has to be done', the answer to that is 'well, I only have x no of hours availalbe per week, so which areas would you like me to focus on in that time?'

You then need to get instructions from him on how you handle, say, training requests or other tasks he deems low priority. Does he need to authorise each one? If he does, make sure you tell him what task it displaces, i.e what is NOT going to get done as a result of this focus. Then get adept at making sure you field these requests as he's asked you to.

I hope there's something in there that helps. I do sympathise, it's HORRIBLE when work makes you feel like this isn't it? I'm still reeling from a bad experience too and I do truly know how it can get to you. I really hope you sort this out. Feel free to contact me off board if there's anything I can do (or if you want a spreadsheet template!)

WideWebWitch Sat 26-Jun-04 22:52:28

When you email to tell him about the training make it clear that you do have suggestions to ensure no repetition - i.e. you're not just going to him with a problem, you do have some ideas re a solution too.

sis Sat 26-Jun-04 23:18:48

Emsiewill, I don't have anything to add to the advice you have already received but I just wanted to to let you know that I have read your post and the situation sounds awful. I hope you get a positive result from your meeting with your boss - remember, they don't know what the problem is until you tell them (the cause may be obvious to you but it may not be obvious to them!) and, of course, confirm it in writing afterwards.

Good luck.

bran Sat 26-Jun-04 23:25:16

You poor thing emsiwill, that sounds miserable. www's advice is good, and I would also check exactly what your job description says - if it doesn't mention training or training co-ordination then they're in a weak position asking you to do it. Also, when you're talking to you manager try to be strong, act and think as though your good nature and flexible skills are being taken advantage of, rather then as though you can't manage. Say things like 'that's not possible', 'the resources weren't available for that task to be completed to my satisfaction' rather than 'I couldn't do it', or 'I didn't have enough time'.

I'm naturally stroppy, but I think women are often in a weak negotiating position because they want to make everyone happy - psych yourself up beforehand not to worry about their happiness, be clear in your own mind about what your job should be and why you're good at it. In the past I have actually said to managers that a particular task would be a waste of my skills and time, and if they say that they think I would be good at it, I tell them that I'm good at a lot of things but I have no intention of doing everything.

I think male managers respect a little calm confrontation but don't respect tears at all.

I really hope it goes well tomorrow.

emsiewill Sun 27-Jun-04 00:17:05

Thanks all for your good, and sensible advice. One of the biggest problems I have is that the "ethos" of the company is "we are all flexible" and by that they mean "put up or shut up".

I know I should be more proactive and set out what I think needs doing and how it should be done - but I'm so taken up at the moment with dealing with whatever the latest issue is that needs sorting NOW, that I don't have time to sit down and do this. This is also not helped by the fact that I really am a bit clueless on a lot of it - as I was thrown into the middle with nobody to guide me. Again, if I say that to anyone it sounds like an excuse.

I love the sound of your spreadsheet www - I, too am an excel fanatic, but the problem is I have very few "set tasks" - I just have to do what I'm told when I'm told. The view seems to be that every bit of training that comes along is a "one off" and so it's not really worth actually giving me a formal job title of training co-ordinator - I don't actually have a job description at the moment, which is something I had already planned to bring up in my one-to-one. At the end of the day, I feel like I'm a failure - which I absolutely hate - who's blaming everyone else for her mistakes.

My life is very busy outside work (like everybody), and I really resent the fact that I end up doing stuff at home (although I do make sure I claim the time back) and obviously I hate the fact that I'm sitting here in front of my computer crying when I should be doing something more constructive. Is this really the only way to be successful in a job - put so much into it that it takes over all my life?

My children went to a party this afternoon, and I couldn't bear to stay, as I'm on the brink of tears all the time, so I left them there even though I knew that I should probably stay as there were a few "rough" boys there. Sure enough, when I picked them up, they had had a good time, but were a bit tearful as there had been a couple of minor incidents - if I'd been there instead of being selfish, they would have had a better time. Another thing to feel bad about.

WideWebWitch Sun 27-Jun-04 00:38:28

Emsiewill, if the proactive spreadsheet won't work, do a reactive one: use some of this home time when you're working to set it up and *log everything on it* as you're asked to do it. Then use it in your meeting. Don't take this 'we're flexible' shit: you're NOT a piece of elastic, you're a person. Make them treat you like one. Although I do know that it's a hell of a lot easier said than done. Please, don't let your mental health suffer as a result, it really isn't worth it. (but I understand why it's important, I really do)

lalaa Sun 27-Jun-04 00:41:39

hi again
just to say that i think if you find a tiny bit of time to do the spreadsheet or to list out the tasks you are being asked to manage, you will feel better. you'll be able to see in black and white what it is that is making you feel so bad, identifying the huge amount of work you are balancing. that should make you feel less of a failure personally and will help you to see that it really is an impossible job for anyone.

are you due any holiday? if you were able to raise these issues with your manager in the way www has suggested and then if you follow the game plan (ie get him to prioritise the work), a bit of time off once this is up and running might help you to feel better (and have an added benefit of your manager realising just how much you are managing if he has to pick it up while you're away!).

Hope you feel better soon.

mummytosteven Sun 27-Jun-04 14:12:20

Emsiewill - so sorry you are in such a tough position. Think you have had some great advice on this thread. I think you must stop thinking of other people so much, and put your energy into preparing for your one to one, and getting things sorted. It is more important to sort yourself out, than to struggle on with firefighting. Look at it this way - it is far better for the Company as well as you if you spend a day working through what WWW has suggested, and get a constructive improvement to your situation than ending up struggling on and going off with stress for months. I think women are particularly trapped into firefighting and struggling on/multi-tasking, rather than putting themselves first. You *will* be respected more if you are assertive and put yourself first than if you continue struggling on.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of flexibility - but even elastic snaps when too much strain is put into it. Fundamentally you are now doing 3 people's jobs, without the adequate training, support or resources. The company's fault. Not yours.

Marina Sun 27-Jun-04 17:08:19

Emsiewill, I remember you posting about your dh's job worries and you mentioned your own situation then - sorry things have got worse for you even if they are currently stable for dh (certainly hope so).
Can't add to the good advice you've been given here but PLEASE don't be down on yourself about cutting and running from the party. I don't think you were being selfish - just for once in recent weeks you were putting yourself first. Even mothers have to do this sometimes.
Can you let us know how your meeting goes? Writing it all out in advance is an excellent idea. We'll all be rooting for you.

emsiewill Sun 27-Jun-04 21:15:07

Well, as predicted the s**t hit the fan today - the trainers were not pleased that there were barely enough people for one session, let alone 2, and all sorts of emails and phone calls were flying around while I was delivering a different training course. During this time, everyone was frantically trying to get hold of me - in the end my manager's manager broke into the training session to let me know that it had all gone pear shaped. Bet you can guess how well the training I was delivering went after that.

Anyway, I had an email from her (manager's manager - or as I prefer to call her "big bum" - not very PC, I know, but quite accurate) asking me what had gone on etc etc. Here are edited highlights of the email I sent to her in reply (minus the boring logistics bits)

"I, too am disappointed in the way the training in [other site] has turned out. Unfortunately, the [other site] freelance workers were given only 1 day's notice for the training, due to the fact that we were not given the schedule until Friday afternoon. Also, despite asking and chasing, I could not get definite confirmation of which members of staff in [other site] needed training - I was only told yesterday that the list I was working from included some people who did not need the training for various reasons [insert boring logistical detail here]. I am very concerned about the way I have been put "in charge" of training - for the whole company it would appear - without any clear guidelines as to what is expected of me, and what my exact role is. I was planning on discussing this with [my manager] in my next 1-2-1 (this week, I presume), but would be glad to discuss it with you, as well, or instead, if you prefer."

She almost immediately came over and asked to have a quick meeting with me. The last time she had a meeting with me, it took place in the kitchen, with everyone popping in and out for their teas and coffees etc, so I was ready to insist on some privacy. Anyway, she offered a nearby meeting room, so that was one battle I didn't have to fight. I explained that I was unclear as to my exact role and the authority I have to carry out the things I have been asked to do, she basically said that she wants me to take ownership of all the training, although there is no actual official training role on offer as such at the moment - but if there was, then she would support any application I might make. (gee, that's good of you).

I explained what had gone wrong with today's schedule, and she said that she didn't blame me (although she's the sort of person who says one thing to your face, and another thing behind your back). She expressed amazement that I hadn't been involved in organising this training before, she thought that I'd been doing it all along, I was doing it so well (flattery will get you nowhere). She said that she was happy to kick butt with people if I needed someone with a bit more clout, but really not to bother her with the little details, as she wasn't interested in training and couldn't see how she'd got to be in charge of training. I pointed out that as my manager, she was there by default. She also told me that I have to prioritise, but that I must decide for myself what the priorities are - I pointed out that I don't always have the requisite background knowledge to do that, which she acknowledged. She also dropped in that they are going to be taking on 10 people soon, and she would be looking to me to organise induction training.

So what they want is for me to fullfil the role that my former manager had been fulfilling, without the £6k per year extra money. In my 1-2-1 with my line manager, I will be asking him to consider moving me up 2 grades - I will not be on a manager's pay then, but at least will be getting a salary that recognises the extra effort and responsibility I am putting in / have taken on. If they're not prepared to give me a payrise, then I will have to review my position. But for the moment I will bide my time.

I am feeling much better today (although was very shaky earlier on when it was all going pear shaped around me), and I would like to thank you all for taking the time to give me your thoughts and ideas. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be trying to get an overview of the whole training process in the company (it makes me laugh, really - what do I know about training?), and as part of that will be compiling a list of tasks / requirements, which I can also use to show how much I am supposed to do. Building up my ammunition, really.

Thanks again for all your help, time and good wishes.

WideWebWitch Mon 28-Jun-04 02:15:11

Ah, well she doesn't sound too helpful then emsiewill but it's a start. Can you ask them for a revised job description, compare it to your old one and use it to build a case for a pay rise? Thinking of you.

serenequeen Mon 28-Jun-04 11:15:27

agree with everything www has said on this, emsiewill. at least attempt the payrise. good luck.

Marina Mon 28-Jun-04 12:22:00

Good luck with the payrise, Emsiewill, agree with you and everyone else that this is a must if you are taking on this role.

sis Mon 28-Jun-04 18:44:17

Confirm what was said at the meeting especially, what was agreed, in WRITING!

emsiewill Tue 13-Jul-04 02:46:38

Here's an update for those who may be interested. I had a one-to-one with my line manager on Monday. Previous to that I had sent him and big bum a 4 page document summarising the immediate training issues, and my current duties as I see them. We spent a lot of time going through the document, and he said he was impressed with it. However, when it came to dicussing my pay rise (for which I had also put in a written argument, detailing exactly why I should be 2 grades higher than I am), he said that he and big bum wanted to be sure that I was doing a job that merited being on that level. As you can imagine, I was not pleased with this, especially as I have been working at that level for the past 2 years, but that was under my old manager who was forced out, so obviously all that time deosn't count (a new pay structure has just been introduced and the grade that I want to move to didn't exist then) and to be honest, I don't think he really agreed with it - I think big bum is pulling the strings there.

I didn't cry, though, I just told him that I thought I was being taken for a mug, and that the company obviously thinks that if I will do the job for the pay I'm on now, why bother giving me more. He said that if I didn't want to do the job any more, then I could go back to a production role - knowing full well that I can't do that until I am trained, and there is no training planned for the short term (and after all, I should know).

He then proceeded to add insult to injury by giving me a mediocre bonus score for April (we get quarterly bonus, the next one payable in July is based on April, May and June), as he said that due to the handover from my old manager, he couldn't really judge the work that I'd done in April. I pointed out that it wasn't my fault if he hadn't made any effort to find out what I was doing, but as I say, he's just the organ grinder, and really has no power to change any of this.

The company recently advertised internally for a Training and Development Manager; no-one applied, so they will have to recruit externally, which will take approx 4 months. It has been recommended that once they have the manager, they will not need a separate training team. So basically I'm running the show until then, and then will be sent wherever they think I will be most useful. In the meantime, if I want the payrise, I have to *prove* to them that I'm worth it. And to be honest, I just can't be bothered. I feel I have no control over what happens, so whether I do a good job or a bad one makes no difference to the end result. How demotivating is that? Not one person has suggested that I should go for the T&D manager's job, thus making it clear what they really think of me.

It's all just a load of s**t. But at least I'm not so stressed about it all now - it's just not worth it.

bunnyrabbit Tue 13-Jul-04 12:20:16

Can't remember if you've answered this already, but do you have a job description anywhere?


emsiewill Tue 13-Jul-04 18:05:19

Hi bunny, I don't have a personal job description, all that there is is a general one for the grade I am at, and it basically says "do what you're told". The one that says "take on extra responsibility, eg for a project or team, be proactive etc, etc" is for 2 grades above me. And no-one can tell me that I'm not doing just that. But no, not a detailed job description.

mummytosteven Tue 13-Jul-04 21:06:12

Emsiewill - have you asked them why they have not suggested you go for the training job, and/or asked them their views if you apply for it. TBH they are taking the mickey, and not appreciating your extra effort and would be inclined to suggest that you work to rule - no overtime, if things don't get done that is their probably for providing inadequate resources.

lalaa Tue 13-Jul-04 22:51:14

Hi emsiewill
Is it time to start looking for another job? Sometimes a person's relationship with their company is irretrievably broken down and the trust between you is damaged. Perhaps this is the start of a new era for you?

emsiewill Wed 14-Jul-04 00:57:49

I am constantly considering changing jobs, but there's no way that in this area I can earn the same money for the same hours and with the amount of flexibility (time-wise) I get with this job. I would have to go full time, and that's something that I'm not really keen to do. I wish I could believe that we could live on less, but as I mentioned before, dh has just had a £5k paycut, and I would probably have to take a similar drop, which is just not do-able.

As for me going for the job, tbh I think it's a poison chalice - they don't value training, but obviously realise that they have to pay lip service to it. I think the person who gets the job is going to have a tough time trying to get them to take training and development seriously.

The sad thing is that I've really enjoyed working for this company, I've learnt so much, and got so much out of the things I've done. But maybe it's time to move on....

WideWebWitch Mon 18-Oct-04 20:18:06

Emsiewill, just wondered what happened. Are you still there or have you found something else? Just thought of you today and wondered.

emsiewill Sun 21-Nov-04 07:52:20

www (and anyone else who's interested), just seen that you were asking about me (I know it was a month ago, but I'm only here intermittently).

I am still with the company. Things have got better in some ways the last few month. I got a payrise in September (only up 1 point on the scale instead of the 2 I wanted, but it's a start), and a good bonus in October. I am reporting to a new manager (well, I report to about 3 people now, actually), who really seems to value me and the work I do, and is sort of "mentoring" me. I feel a lot happier because I am confident that I know what I'm doing (it was a very steep learning curve).

However, the new Learning and Development Manager has now started, she is based in our office in Scotland so I emailed her to say hello and explain what I've been doing over the last few months and let her know that I'm keen to stay involved in the training side of things. That was 2 weeks ago, and I've had no reply, not even an acknowledgement, which I find incredibly rude. Then to top it all, the job that I've been doing (without actually ever being officially given the job) for the last 6 months has just (Friday) been advertised internally, and will be based in Scotland. I realise it makes sense, as that is where the manager is based but as it will effectively make me redundant, it would have been nice if I'd been warned that it was going to be advertised beforehand.

I'm not concerned that I will be actually made redundant, but yet again the company has shown how it doesn't give a thought to its employees as people rather than numbers. I suppose that's what you get working for a bunch of actuaries.

So, to sum up, I'm a lot happier than I was when I started this thread, but some things haven't changed.

WideWebWitch Sun 21-Nov-04 08:42:58

Thanks for that emsiewill. Oh dear, the latest development doesn't sound good, sorry to hear it.

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