Situation 12: TASK OVERLOAD

Femsy overloads Betsy with tasks that are not in her job description. Betsy decides to address this in a face-to-face conversation with Femsy to bring clarity to the situation.

(Click on the pictures to see them in full size)

A great leader:

  • Has confidence in her own abilities and is not afraid to challenge or push back;
  • Has the courage to speak out with integrity even in challenging circumstances.
  • Builds effective and cooperative relationships;
  • Is credible and trusted by bosses, peers and subordinates;

How to best handle the situation:

This is a sensitive situation so you need to think carefully about your objectives and what outcome you want to achieve in the face-to-face meeting.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to get an appreciation of why he/she is doing this.

You should aim for a constructive and productive conversation.  Be prepared to give him/her clear and precise feedback about his/her behavior and its impact on you. Give specific examples of exactly what happened.

Listen attentively to what the other person is saying in response to your feedback, and try to ask open questions to prompt him/her to open up.  This way you will get a better understanding of his/her perspective and situation.

It is important that the other person acknowledges and agrees with your assessment of the situation before you move to solutions/what you want to be different.

Discuss how you want to work together going forward, i.e. regularly evaluating your workload and prioritizing your “to-do’s” according to his/her criteria.

Learning suggestions:

  • Prior to a confrontation rehearse what you want to say and try to anticipate the likely reactions of the other party – will he/she be surprised? Angry? Upset? etc.   Think about how you will deal with these different responses so that you are prepared when you have your face-to-face meeting;
  • Just before the meeting take some deep breaths to slow your breathing and calm down.  This will help you to present yourself in an assured and professional manner;
  • During the meeting express your feelings and state what you want.  Stay present i.e. really focus on the dialogue that you and your counterpart are having.  Notice how he/she behaves, what are the non-verbal clues to the underlying emotions he/she is feeling?  Try to listen on three levels; content, feeling and meaning to truly understand the other person’s point of view;
  • Evaluate your own behaviour? What has stopped you from speaking out?  Going forward, set boundaries and manage expectations:  You have the choice to say “enough” when you’re being exploited or to say “no” to unreasonable requests. Let your boss and other people know those boundaries. Nobody will respect your time unless you respect your time first.


What has stopped you from speaking out?  What are the opportunities for you to behave differently in the future?  What will you do and how will you do this?

Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.


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