A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Overworked and Stressed Out
Dear Sue: I am the manager of a small business. The owners have
three other offices and a manufacturing facility, so they rarely come to
this office. The only other employee at this office is an outside
salesperson. He is the one who hired me, and earlier this year helped me
get a substantial raise.
The problem is that I rarely see him, and although he takes care of his
main customer and the occasional delivery we have, most of the time he is
unavailable. He keeps his cell phone turned off, which makes it impossible
for his customers to reach him, and he relies on me to handle everything
The last manager who was in my position tried to tell the owners what
was going on, but I think that is what lead to his termination. The
salesman has a strong relationship with his boss, who is one of the owners
of the company. I know that they would not fire him if I said anything and
it would probably make my work here unbearable.
I’ve worked here for two and a half years, and have worked in this
industry much longer. Jobs are scarce, so if I left, I don’t know where I
would go. The problem is that my work load is so heavy that I am becoming
more and more stressed out. Should I blow the whistle and see what happens
or stay here and endure the stress?
Sue Says: If your stress is your biggest concern, I doubt you
will get rid of it by blowing the whistle; you likely will add even more
stress to an already stressful situation. This is not to say you shouldn’t
do something about your situation, because you should. I’m just not
convinced you have only two options.
What is your relationship like with the salesperson? I assume it can’t
be too bad—after all, he has shown his support for you and appears to
appreciate the work you do. He is the one who recently helped you get a
substantial raise, isn’t he? So why then, do you assume you can’t talk to
him and tell him that you need help with your heavy workload?
I am sure you have your reasons for believing the salesperson is not
working to his capacity, but I am not sure what they are. Do you have a
clear understanding of both his, and your, responsibilities? Do you know
how much time he spends tending to his “main” customer? Do you keep track
of his daily schedule?
Perhaps you need to concern yourself less with what he is or isn’t
doing, and become clearer about your priorities or job duties. Is a big
part of your job to support him or are your responsibilities to the owners
and other aspects of the business? If you find that you are doing work
that is his responsibility, not yours, you need to talk to him about it,
not the owners. If he refuses to listen or take responsibility for
himself, you may have no choice but to involve the owners, but don’t do it
until you first try to work things out with him.
If you have more work than you can handle for reasons that have nothing
to do with the salesperson, talk with your supervisor, an owner or whoever
you report to. Perhaps he or she can help you; a discussion can help
clarify what your top priorities and focus should be.
You don’t need to “blow the whistle” on anyone. When you talk about
your challenges, and where your time is going each day, if too much of it
is spent supporting the salesperson, it will be apparent to your
Deal with your problem, which is an increasingly heavy workload that is
becoming more and more difficult to manage. Be solution, not problem
oriented. What questions do you need answered? What suggestions do you
have for improving the situation?
When you take matters into your own hands, you will help yourself, and
ultimately, deal with your stress more effectively.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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