Doing the Work of Two People? Need Help? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

Overworked-BusinesswomanI work as a training manager in a large organization. Two years ago my boss was let go. Since then, I have been doing both her job and my old job.

I like my current boss (formerly my boss’s boss) but it’s obvious that he is fine with the existing situation. I’m not—and I feel taken advantage of.

My review is coming up and I am wondering how direct I should be. I am an introvert and quite shy and standing up for myself is not my strong suit. On the other hand, I am angry now.

Mad at My Boss

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Dear Mad,

Getting two full-time employees for the price of one is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Managers get away with it because employees let them. It’s good that you’re angry. I hope that anger will catapult you into action and get you to stand up for yourself. Use it to drive your planning and fire up your courage.

You should be very direct—but the key is to remain emotionally neutral while being so. It is my experience that the reason most people don’t demand what is fair is that they can’t find a way to express themselves without becoming emotional. So they just don’t express themselves at all.

So how to do it?

Think long and hard about what your requests will be. Put them in order of priority and decide what is negotiable and what isn’t. Then practice, practice, practice. Ask a friend to play your boss and force yourself to do it. It will feel awkward, and you will feel embarrassed at first—but isn’t it better to feel that way in a safe environment than when you are with your boss and the stakes are high?

Practice ways of saying no. Try variations like “That doesn’t work for me; what if we did this instead?” or “Let’s consider another approach.” Get comfortable with a couple of phrases that may not be normal for you. You are asking yourself to perform something way out of your comfort zone, so preparation will be your best friend.

Reflect on your experience with your current boss and brainstorm all possible objections or arguments he might use to talk you out of your requests. Practice your well-thought-through responses.

Think through everything—job responsibilities, how attached you are to the change in title, and, of course, salary. Put it all in writing so you don’t forget anything (easy to do if your nerves get the best of you). Begin by asking for everything you want and be ready to negotiate down to what is essential. Decide in advance what you are willing to give up—and what you will do if you can’t get what is most essential to you.

You should consider being prepared to leave the job if you can’t get your boss to agree to your bare minimum. This means brushing up your resume, polishing your LinkedIn profile, and even putting out feelers if you haven’t already. Having a Plan B will make you feel stronger in your negotiations.

You may find a lot of excellent support in Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence: How to Bring Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Amy Cuddy is a social scientist who has overcome her own natural shyness, so she strikes me as extraordinarily credible. I am a big fan of her research on “power posing” and have used it myself before doing things that scare me. If you don’t have time to get her book, you can at least watch her TED talk.

When the time comes for the conversation, take especially good care of yourself. Make sure you have enough time and you won’t be interrupted. Remember to breathe. If you feel dizzy from nerves or can’t remember what you wanted to say, feel the soles of your feet on the floor and take a deep breath. Everything you need to remember will come in on your breath and you will be fine.

Most of us spend all of our time preparing for what we want to say and no time at all preparing for the end of the conversation. Your manager will benefit from this and will probably try to get you to agree to things in the meeting, but don’t fall for it! Do not, not, NOT capitulate to anything in the conversation. Instead, take everything he proposes—take notes if you need to—and tell him you will think about it. This will give you the time you need to think things through with your wits about you.

This may all feel like overkill, and it may be. But I guarantee all of this thoughtfulness and preparation will give you gravitas and make you brave—which will make it much harder for your boss to turn you down.

Fortune favors the brave…and the prepared.

Be fierce.

Love, Madeleine

About the Author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

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