Being Overworked In My Family Business

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about family business: I’ve allowed myself to be taken advantage of to a ridiculous degree, but I was raised in an extremely toxic environment

I have been working at a small family business for almost twenty years. I am a relative. In this time, I admit I’ve allowed myself to be taken advantage of to a ridiculous degree, but I was raised in an extremely toxic environment so I didn’t know any better and just worked as hard as I could under a workload that would keep several people busy. At first I was hourly. I was given a key so I could come in before everyone else and stay late as everyone left the building at five. When my boss saw he had a workhorse on his hands, he put me on salary so he didn’t have to pay overtime. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about the business in two decades.

Unfortunately, as my older coworkers have retired, their job duties seem to have shifted to me. I’m already overworked and it’s getting to the point where I simply can’t get things done without having some stress related issues. My boss has hired a total deadbeat to “assist” me. She is not the first deadbeat he’s hired. His managerial skills are woefully lacking and I could overlook this, but it’s almost like he WANTS to see me stressed and discouraged. I would even go so far as to say he’s jealous because he needs me and resents it, so he lets this deadbeat get away with doing nothing at all.

I actually get more done when she’s gone because she’s very immature and I feel like I’m babysitting her when she’s there. To give a brief illustration, a typical morning will start off with her walking into work late, see me sitting at my desk doing her job because I can’t do my job until hers is done. She will then proceed to get down on the floor right in front of me and begin calisthenics, lying on her back, throwing her legs over her head, and sticking her bottom in the air. I feel like I’m working with a 5-year-old in constant need of attention, not a 40 year old woman. The rest of the day is just as mindless with this twit so I won’t elaborate.

Talking to my boss doesn’t do any good because he won’t stand up to her. I don’t know if he’s gravitated toward her because she is as incompetent as he is, or if he is using her to rub my nose in all the extra work. They have become very close and talk and text and go places together. Many times, they have shouting matches, then will disappear together for hours at a time and come back to work with the problem resolved and he’ll sit in her office with the door shut, while I do all the work. I am so overwhelmed and resentful and I’m leaving work in tears of exhaustion these days. It’s gotten to the point where I simply don’t care about job performance because I don’t have time to do all the work. And like I said, I feel like he gets this weird satisfaction out of it.I can either quit or come up with a strategy.

The best one I’ve come up with is trying to practice the art of detachment, but it’s not easy when I’m swamped with so much work. Talking to him is useless because he’ll just say I’m not that busy or when I ask for help he points to the deadbeat, like she’s really going to help. He knows better. He just doesn’t care. To be honest, I think a lot of the reason he doesn’t care is because his right hand man retired and he doesn’t know how to run things aside from running around pushing paper clips, if that makes any sense. I don’t think he knows how to handle things and this has made him resentful of me because if I leave even for a few hours, chaos ensues.

I’ve been blessed with good coworkers and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to stay. But I seem to be the one carrying the load. I haven’t had a day off in almost a year while everyone else gets to leave without the domino effect. I’m very tired these days and I realize the situation has reached the point where I simply cannot keep up with the workload. I’ve tried to just let things go, but the boss doesn’t care whether things are caught up or not so he even then will not get anyone to help me and I end up getting myself caught up.I can’t mentally or physically keep up anymore and he’s enjoying the show, I think because he feels incompetent to run the place, so in order to save face, he’s flaunting this deadbeat in front of me out of jealousy because I’ve allowed myself to be so heavily relied upon.I guess I need to look for another job to save my sanity, but I don’t know how, at the age of 52.I would appreciate your advice.

Signed, Worn Out

Dear Worn Out:

If you read your letter you’ll have a good part of your answer. You list many negative things about the job and about your boss and nothing positive. You repeatedly say that it won’t do any good to talk to your boss about it. You’ve been putting up with it for twenty years. Of course you’re tired! I’ll bet you’re tired physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Working like that will do it to you.

Your options are to stay and confront your boss with the fact that you simply can’t keep working at this level, spelling out the tasks you no longer can do or will do. Or, to stay and continue to tolerate it. Or, to leave. You could combine some of that and tell your boss that if things haven’t improved in a month, you’ll leave. Then do it. If he even remotely senses you don’t mean it, no changes will happen.

One thing is for sure: If you don’t change, nothing will change.You have twenty years there, so if there is another business like yours around you can bet you’d be a valued addition. Or, perhaps you can find something different that is more enjoyable and satisfying. I’m not suggesting that the only solution is to quit, but don’t count it out as an option.You don’t say what relationship you are to the boss. Maybe that relationship will be some leverage as well. Or, it could be that once he realizes his girlfriend (the employee who he is currently supporting through company funds) is going to have to work, he’ll find a better solution.I hope you’ll do yourself the favor of doing something positive to get control over your life. This work situation isn’t fair and it isn’t right. But, only you have any reason to change it. Please let us know what you decide. We’ll be hoping for the best.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.