I've got a friend who has a senior level position in a highly respected global organization. She is one of their most senior people, in fact. It's all exciting: the interaction with important people in countries around the world; the jetting--mostly long hauls to Asia, the Middle East, Africa. The cocktails and lunches with fascinating people of every stripe.
But the job is killing her. Because she can't say no to any project. She's had little sleep for the past 60 days because the projects have been so demanding...and there are so many of them.
It ceased to be fun some time ago, yet she continues. She says she hopes there will be light at the end of the tunnel soon. There better be: her blood pressure has increased dangerously and she has trouble breathing at times, not to mention her upper back pain.
I encouraged her to have the conversation with her boss that so many of us--primarily those of us who consider ourselves indispensable--have trouble initiating. She has become convinced that only she is capable of carrying off these big projects. She's probably right. Someone else would do them differently, and more than likely they will do them less well. But they will get taken care of--somehow--if she is not there. Our discussion may have helped a bit but I realized in talking with her that I've heard this same tale from others, both men and women. People tell us how fortunate the company is to have us; how things wouldn't be the same without us; that everyone is grateful we did an "all nighter" so the project finished on time. But those are not the same people who will be with us in the emergency room when we have heart palpitations from the stress. And they can't bring back that opportunity we missed to see our son or daughter in the school play.
I'm told that Gen Y people don't have this problem and find discussion about this kind of work in consistent overdrive style far away from the manner in which they experience the workplace. But I wonder if that is because they are just, well, young. When the responsibilities start to build, will they shrug them off and tell the boss to get someone else to handle that? And will they do that in a tough job market?
Is there a conversation about workload you should have with your boss?