I work on a small team with just one other person. He has two young kids at home. I really sympathize with him having to do child care and virtual learning during the pandemic, but I have been picking up all the slack and I’m burnt out. I don’t want to put more pressure on my co-worker, but I can’t handle the increased workload any more. What should I do?
The First Answer
Greg Conner, vice president, people and culture, BC Transit, Victoria, B.C.
While it is admirable that you sympathize with your colleague’s situation, I also appreciate that this needs to change for your own well-being. The pandemic has been hard on all of us, and arguably hardest on parents who are forced to work remotely with young children at home. We do need to accommodate these situations, however, it’s important to distinguish between equal and equitable treatment. For example, if your jobs are “nine to five” and your co-worker is required to care for his children for some of that work time, perhaps he could either work a couple of hours early morning or later in the evening to make up for the time spent during regular hours looking after his children.
If this is something you are in a position to discuss and reach an agreement with your co-worker on, then talk to him. It won’t be a surprise that you are burning out by picking up the slack, and he will appreciate you involving him in coming up with a solution. If that is not possible, approach your supervisor and see what they can do to address the situation. If your co-worker cannot work a more flexible schedule, he may need to work part-time until he can find alternative care for his children during regular work time. Those hours might well be used to hire a temporary part-time employee to help out. If that is not doable, set your own boundaries with your supervisor as to what you can and cannot accomplish in a normal workday.
The Second Answer
Natasha Lakhani, head of people at Wattpad, Toronto, Ont.
It is really empathetic to recognize and support your colleague the way you have and for such a long period of time. It definitely isn’t easy managing the complexities of work and family during the pandemic. That being said, it is also healthy that you have recognized the impact it has on you.
The suggested way to solve this issue is to first communicate openly and honestly with your manager to ensure they understand the situation and that you have their support. Next, discuss the issue directly with your colleague. Healthy and productive relationships are built on a foundation of strong communication, and this includes work relationships.
Start the conversation with an acknowledgment of your colleague’s situation, highlight how you’ve supported them in this difficult time, and then focus on two to three specific scenarios of how this additional workload has affected you, resulting in more pressure on your own professional and personal life. Finally, switch to collaborative problem solving where you help your colleague own the situation and help them find a resolution shifting their work back to them within a defined period of time. Having the support of your manager is also key here to ensure accountability to the agreed-upon plan and to ensure follow-through.
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