Overwhelmed by Workload


A few months ago, I wrote a letter to Workplace Doctors because I felt like I did not receive adequate training when I started my job, and I wanted to know how to go about dealing with this problem. Since that time, I have received more information on how to do tasks properly, but there is a new problem. I now feel like I don’t have enough time to complete tasks. I work in a store, as a price support associate, doing markdowns on clothing. At the beginning of the week, I get a form assignment that states the sections of the store in which I need to markdown prices of clothing. In addition to doing the markdowns, I also have to refile the clothing so that they are displayed on the proper racks. Lastly, I have to change the price signs on top of the racks, so that they are in compliance with the sales that are going on for the current week. I understand why the signs have to be changed, but at the same time, from my understanding, that task is supposed to be done at the beginning of the week, before the employees who do the markdowns go into those sections. But because that isn’t always done on time, that task gets tacked on to my list of responsibilities.

There is an employee who comes into the sections to replenish the racks with more clothing from the stockroom and if he notices that the signs haven’t been changed, he gets annoyed and if I happen to be in the section that he is replenishing then he confronts me about the signs. I don’t think that the tasks are difficult, but it takes a lot of time to complete them, specifically doing the markdowns and reorganizing the clothing on the racks according to the sales prices. And I am usually assigned five sections, when I get my form at the beginning of the week.

This week, it took me three days to complete just one of my assigned sections, and my supervisor expects me to have all the sections done by the end of the week. And on top of that, without having finished all of the sections on my first form, I saw another form in my work folder with more section assignments.

It’s gotten to the point where I feel like the workload is overwhelming, and I don’t know how to approach my supervisor about this.




Dear Overwhelmed:

I think most customers never realize how much work goes into the mark-downs and sales they take for granted! I’m sorry this is such a source of frustration for you.

Here are some things to consider:

1.) If there are other employees who are doing your type of work, how are they able to get the work done? Have you discussed your concerns with them to the point of asking them for advice or assistance? It could be they have learned quick techniques they could share with you.

If they are doing less work than you, perhaps that needs to be clarified. If they aren’t putting up signs and other things you’re doing, that too needs to be cleared up.

2.) Do you and the other price support associates know of a better way to handle the sign changes on racks? How was it done before? It doesn’t seem that changing a sign would add that much time to a task. If it does, have you you checked the exact time so you can tell that to your manager?

It won’t sound very challenging if you only are adding ten minutes a day to your work to change signs. But if you are adding two hours a day, that is something else.

3.) Are you working steadily during the day or could it be there is some problem about time management or too much time spent in one thing and not enough in something else?

4.) You mentioned another employee who gets angry if signs aren’t changed. This may seem difficult to do, but try sincerely saying to him, “I know the signs need to be changed but I just can’t seem to get them done and get my other work done too. If you have ideas, I’m open to hearing them, because I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed with everything I have to do.”

It may be he has experience doing your work and has ideas. Or, he may join with you in asking the manager for a solution.

5. Is it possible you are feeling more overwhelmed that necessary? Has there been any hint or comments by those higher than you, about the quality and quantity of your work. If not, could it be you are doing better than you think?

6.) Whatever the situation about your work, talk to your manager BEFORE your manager talks to you about it. If your manager has to come to you with concerns it will seem like you are making excuses if you say you are having problems with all the tasks you have to do. If you go to your manager you sound more like someone who is looking for solutions and wants to do well.

When you talk to your manager be prepared with a brief overview of how you approach your work. What do you do to get things done as quickly as possible? Then, ask him or her for suggestions about how to deal with the sign issue as well as the new section you’ve been assigned to do.

The key is to ensure that your manager knows you want to do well and that you will do well if it is at all possible–but you are feeling as though no one could get the work done. That’s why it’s important to know if others have less work than you or if there is something they are doing differently that allows them to complete their work on time. I know it is very frustrating feeling to to having problems with work in this way. It may be this type of detailed work is just not something you do well and some other job would fit you better. Nevertheless, if it is humanly possible to do the job, you will certainly want to do it the right way and be able to move to other work some day soon with a good reference.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.