Unfair work distribution? Consolation of doing others’ work


You would have encountered the situation whereby work that were supposed to be done by other colleagues/department gets allocated to you.
I’ve met different types of colleagues in my working life (which you may be able to relate):

  • The tai chi king and queens- those who try to justify and push their work to others. They may use means of intimidating the boss, whining and complaining till the boss decide to allocate the work to them
  • The ones who sit on their deadlines or play dumb and do not deliver the work. Or they deliver substandard work till you have no choice but to do the work yourself
  • Those who go on medical leave, resign with short/no notice at all causing the work to get thrown at you
  • Those who ride on your kind heart and good nature to beg you to help them.

Which sorts of make you feel like the picture below…. am I right?

Unfair work distribution

You may think that people who do not do so much work and get it passed on to others are actually being smart. But in the long run, they are not.

Do you know that the most marketable people- those who have no problem getting jobs in hard times are those who are most hardworking. They tended to have to take on sh!t from others. They are the first person that Management could think of to look for when there is a huge problem…. Even though the problem is not related to them.

With time, the reputation of such people spread far and wide. When they are sick and tired of being overwork and underappreciated and wanted to leave, other companies are very happy to take them. And because they have gone through so much, no challenge would be too hard for them.

My personal experience

I definitely do not get it easy when it comes to my career. Often, I ended up having to take up huge amount of responsibilities, some of which could have been delegated to other colleagues.

However, one flaw of mine is that I can be quite a perfectionist. And kind hearted. So some ‘smart’ colleagues took advantage of this by playing dumb, claiming that they are unable to do the work. When my boss forced them to do the work, they will come up with work of low quality and in the end, I had to do redo the entire thing from scratch.

Yes, I do feel resentment from time to time of having to do this. I could have play the game as well, and join in the competition of ‘passing the buck and playing dumb’. But I could not make myself to do it.

Why I chose to do it

Because I felt sorry for almost 200 staff who are answerable to customers. If no one could give a satisfactory reply, they would get yelled and screamed at by the customers.

I was once in their shoes and I know how it felt. In fact, years ago when cornered and facing a similar situation whereby I had to give a black and white explanation to customer, I went to approach the managers. They were busy chatting and gossiping and looked at me as if I was pure nuisance.

That time, I was merely a customer officer level who do not have authority to call and deal with other departments for the answer I needed. I remember standing there, looking at them, feeling so angry and helpless….that I made a promise to myself…. If one day I get to be in that position, I will do my best to make sure no one have to go through what I went through.

Becareful of what you vowed for because it may just come true.

About two years later, I find myself being in that position. For the next 10 years or so, I did my best to fulfill the promise to myself.

Is it stupid to let the buck stop with you?

I find myself having to redo substandard work that were passed on to me. Because experience tells me that if you just give superficial answers, you will constantly be interrupted by your staff because customers often ask intelligent questions. Even my experienced staff would also learn to expect questions from customers.

It is better to sit down and focus on all the question, or call in a small group of staff to get their feedback and get all the answers to the difficult/weird questions so that once the announcement is out, less people would be bugging you. Often it is not easy to get answers to difficult questions—yes, I could form sentences and scripts from the air but I can never make up the answers without being sure. I would call and hunt down colleagues from other department and bug them till I get some verbal answers. Then I will sum it up in an email to them (to get black and white).

Even though the draft should come from other department but I know if I wait for them, long after the cows come home I will never get anything. Surprisingly many people find it challenging to write. And also to be fair, they are scrambling here and there to try to fix the problem so they do not have the mental capacity and time to write.

In my previous company, I’ve had to deal with almost any emergency and situations imaginable. So much so that nothing scares me anymore.
What benefits does being overloaded and doing other’s work have given me?

From a creative person who is hopeless in prioritization and organization, I acquired the skills out of necessity. I also learnt to deal with very stressful situations and learnt how to talk to my staff to calm them down (not feeding them with lies but talk to them as adults).

Yes, for those few years I had worked very very hard.

But you know what, the skills I acquired were priceless. It flowed over to my personal life. It helped me to manage my personal situation, stress and emotions better. If there is a lot of do that day, automatically my brain would start to work in prioritizing the tasks.

Over to you…

Why I am sharing this is because I want you know…. If you are caught in the situation where you feel you are being severely shortchanged … where you feel you are taking on unfair workload where there are other lazy bumps or smooth talkers who got away, try to look at this situation from another perspective.

You may try talking to your boss to see if the work could somehow be distributed fairly. Sometimes the change happens and sometimes no.

But whatever you do, don’t let emotions get the better of you. Don’t give in to the urge to walk in one day and throw the resignation letter on your boss’s face. In the end, no one is going to pity you if you cannot meet your mortgage payments or feed yourself and your family.

If you cannot change your work circumstances, you can always learn to alter how you deal with the situation. It is the one thing that you have control of. I always believe that challenges are placed in our lives for a reason and often it is something that may feel so tough but it is something that we can deal with.

Eventually because you need to work extra work, you would pick up valuable skills like working under stressful conditions, time management, setting priorities and organizing your daily tasks.

There is no course, book or mentor that can help to internalize these valuable skills in you as effectively as experience and being hands on could. And whatever you acquired would belong to you. No one else could take it away from you.

These skills would come in handy in handling difficult life situation. And perhaps in your future career undertaking.

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