The First Step in Managing Job Overload
We have all experienced that appalling sense of having far too much work to do and too little time to do it in. We can choose to ignore this, and work unreasonably long hours to stay on top of our workload. The risks here are that we become exhausted, that we have so much to do that we do a poor quality job, and that we neglect other areas of our life. Each of these can lead to intense stress.
The alternative is to work more intelligently, by focusing on the things that are important for job success and reducing the time we spend on low priority tasks. Job Analysis is the first step in doing this.
The first of the action-oriented skills that we look at is Job Analysis. Job Analysis is a key technique for managing job overload – an important source of stress.
To do an excellent job, you need to fully understand what is expected of you. While this may seem obvious, in the hurly-burly of a new, fast-moving, high-pressure role, it is oftentimes something that is easy to overlook.
By understanding the priorities in your job, and what constitutes success within it, you can focus on these activities and minimize work on other tasks as much as possible. This helps you get the greatest return from the work you do, and keep your workload under control.
Job Analysis is a useful technique for getting a firm grip on what really is important in your job so that you are able to perform excellently. It helps you to cut through clutter and distraction to get to the heart of what you need to do.
Note that this tool takes two forms - the short-form we discuss here assumes that your organization is already well organized and that its job descriptions, review criteria and incentives are well-aligned and correct. The long-form, helps you to deal with jobs where this is not the case – here, inconsistent job design can cause enormous stress.
How to Use the Tool:
To conduct a job analysis, go through the following steps:
1. Review formal job documentation:
- Look at your job description. Identify the key objectives and priorities within it.
- Look at the forms for the periodic performance reviews. These show precisely the behaviors that will be rewarded and, by implication, show those that will be punished.
- Find out what training is available for the role. Ensure that you attend appropriate training so that you know as much as possible about what you need to know.
- Look at incentive schemes to understand the behaviors that these reward.
2. Understand the organization’s strategy and culture:
Your job exists for a reason – this will ultimately be determined by the strategy of the organizational unit you work for. This strategy is often expressed in a mission statement. In some way, what you do should help the organization achieve its mission (if it does not, you have to ask yourself how secure the job is!). Make sure you understand and perform well the tasks that contribute to the strategy.
Similarly, every organization has its own culture – its own, historically developed values, rights and wrongs, and things that it considers to be important. If you are new to an organization, talk through with established, respected members of staff to understand these values.
Make sure that you understand this culture. Make sure that your actions reinforce the company’s culture, or at least do not go against it. Looked at through the lens of culture, will the company value what you do?
Check that your priorities are consistent with this mission statement and the company culture.
3. Find out who the top achievers are, and understand why they are successful:
Inside or outside the organization, there may be people in a similar role to you who are seen as highly successful. Find out how they work, and what they do to generate this success. Look at what they do, and learn from them. Understand what skills make them successful, and learn those skills.
4. Check that you have the people and resources to do the job:
The next step is to check that you have the staff support, resources and training needed to do an excellent job. If you do not, start work on obtaining them.
5. Confirm priorities with your boss:
By this stage, you should have a thorough understanding of what your job entails, and what your key objectives are. You should also have a good idea of the resources that you need, and any additional training you may need to do the best you can.
This is the time to talk the job through with your boss, and confirm that you share an understanding of what constitutes good performance in the role.
It is also worth talking through serious inconsistencies, and agreeing how these can be managed.
6. Take Action:
You should now know what you have to do to be successful in your job. You should have a good idea of the most important things that you have to do, and also the least important.
Where you can drop the less-important tasks, do so. Where you can de-prioritize them, do so.
Where you need more resource or training to do your job, negotiate for this.
Remember to be a little sensitive in the way you do this: Good teamwork often means helping other people out with jobs that do not benefit you. However, do not let people take advantage of you: Be assertive in explaining that you have your own work to do. If you cannot drop tasks, delegate them or negotiate longer time scales.
Job analysis is a five-step technique for:
- Understanding and agreeing how to achieve peak performance in your job;
- Ensuring that you and your boss agree on the areas you should concentrate on when time gets tight; and the areas that can be de-emphasized during this time; and
- Making sure that you have the resources, training and staff needed to do a good job.
By using the Job Analysis technique, you should gain a good understanding of how you can excel at your job. You should also understand your job priorities.
This helps you to manage the stress of job overload by helping to decide which jobs you should drop.
Job Analysis is just one of many practical action-oriented techniques for reducing the stress of job overload. These and other types of technique help you to resolve structural problems within jobs, work more effectively with your boss and powerful people, improve the way your teams function and become more assertive so that other people respect your right not to take on an excessive workload. These are all important techniques for bringing job stress under control, for improving the quality of your working life, and for achieving career success.