When Work Feels Overwhelming

Being a manager is often about meeting goals that have been set for you by someone else. Whether it is the owner of the company, the board of directors, a senior manager, or whomever else, reaching goals is a typical way to measure success. Sometimes, these goals are very tangible things like sales totals, efficiency measurements, or other numerical values. Other times, things like employee morale and customer satisfaction can be used as more arbitrary measuring sticks.

You might find yourself in a situation where work feels overwhelming, and that you have been set up to fail. While we all like to shoot for the stars and take on any challenge, sometimes a goal is set that is simply not possible regardless of the expertise and efforts of the manager. If you find yourself in a position that feels like an impossible fight, consider the following options for dealing with the situation.

1) Confront it Early

One of the best ways to deal with an unattainable goal is to address it right away. If you have had a goal set for you by the owner, for example, and you don’t feel it is possible, speak with him or her right away. The longer you wait to deal with it, the more it will look like you are failing and hoping for a way out. If you talk about the adjusting the goal before you ever get started, it will seem more like a legitimate discussion and less like you covering for yourself. As with any business discussion, come prepared with reasons why you think the goal is unattainable, and what you think would be a fair mark to shoot for.

2) Careful Documentation of Action

If you go ahead and try to achieve the goal you feel is out of reach, keep careful track of all action taken during that time in pursuit of the goal. With that documentation behind you, there will be more basis for your argument when the goal is not reached and you are confronted about it. You can present the higher manager with all of your proof of action and demonstrate everything you did to try and attain the goal. You may find that your failure to reach the goal is understood when you carefully outline the process you followed all the way along. You are not working on excuses, but rather just proof of your hard work and effort to reach the goal.

3) Speak with Others about Success

When you have a goal to reach that you aren’t sure is possible, ask others in the business about it. It might be that they agree with you and are dubious on your chances of success, or it might be that they have a different perspective for you to consider. It is almost always helpful to consult with others when faced with a problem, so this is the perfect time to seek experienced advice. If you are told by multiple people that the goal is out of reach, it might be wise to revert to option one and speak with the owner or other manager about the goal. However, if you are told that you can do it, get right to work with the confidence that it can be achieved.

While setting goals for yourself is usually more comfortable, having a goal set for you can actually be a good thing. Others will often think more of your abilities than you will, so they set aggressive goals because they are confident in what you can do. If you are sure that a goal is out of reach, use one of the three options above to deal with the situation. However, make sure to think hard about what the goal is asking of you, because it just might be something that you can conquer.

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Key Points

  • The feeling of being overloaded is increasingly common in today’s workplace.
  • One of the best ways to deal with an unattainable goal is to address it right away.
  • The longer you wait to deal with it, the more it will look like you are failing.
  • Keep careful track of all action taken during the time you spend and make sure you document it.
  • Ask other people for their input because you may be missing something.
  • If you are told by multiple people that the goal is out of reach, then speak with your manager about it.

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