A few nights ago my wife and I were talking over dinner. We were discussing her co-worker’s behaviors regarding stress and deadlines. For the sake of this post let us call this person Jill. Jill is responsible for a work load large enough for two people to fill their time. This puts her at a disadvantage right out of the gate and causes a lot of stress. This is a difficult position but the people around her look down upon her for not being responsive, delaying tasks excessively, and producing poor quality work.
Up to this point I think that we all can feel for Jill. After analyzing anecdotes of her performance I began to realize that Jill had an opportunity for a positive relationship with her co-workers but, instead, crumbles under her work load and causes even more problems. For example, Jill is regularly seen socializing for hours at a time in the hallway and then walks into a meeting where she explains that she didn’t get her work done because she has too much to do. Another example, after being at work for three hours, Jill is approached by a co-worker asking if she has seen her new action items yet. The action items were sent the night before and Jill’s response is, “oh, I haven’t logged into the system yet. I’ll check it in a second.” After three hours in the office she hasn’t logged into the system yet.
We put ourselves in Jill’s shoes and theorized that this might be a cycle out of her control. Some people, when they feel stressed or overwhelmed, will avoid the stressors. This provides momentary relief, but when the stressor is an inbox that is too full, then the avoidance does nothing other than elevate the stress. In addition, the people around Jill see her avoidance. This makes them attribute any failures as truly Jill’s failures and not a product of being over worked. This also prevents management from hiring because they see the issue as a disciplinary issue and not a capacity issue.
This brings us around to our moral of this story. We are all bound to be in a challenging position but how we act in that situation is what defines us as professionals.
If you let your burdens bend you, they will only push you down. But, if you stand tall, they can drive you forward.
Forgive my lack of artistic skills. The jet-pack represents the force of your burden.