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Job Doc

When the boss demands more with less

Q. I am gainfully employed. Most think I am lucky to have a job. In reality though, I am overwhelmed almost all of the time. In 2008 and 2009, my employer laid off many employees. We have rehired a few, but we are working very long hours and our chief executive believes we should be available all the time. I was at a funeral last week, and he knew I was at a funeral. He called four times. The stress level at my company is through the roof. I have had colleagues walk out the door without another job lined up, because they could not handle it any more. Is this common?

A. Your situation is increasingly common. But I don’t believe these employers represent the mainstream.

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Most can survive the work environment you are describing if it is short term. As an example, if you are a manager of an engineering team and you have an upgrade that you need to have in your client’s hands, you can all pull together, work wild hours, and meet the deadline. But as a long-term norm, most would consider this unhealthy.

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout can sometimes result from lack of control. If your schedule, workload, or assignments are out of control, stress and burnout can occur.

If you believe your situation is temporary, and could be remedied by talking to your chief executive, your situation may be salvageable.

Take advantage of your company’s employee assistance program, if there is one available. I consulted with Kathleen Greer, founder of KGA, a firm that provides employee assistance programs. Greer said: “When executives join an organization, they expect some separation between work and home. Unless a serious workplace crisis is brewing, it is not appropriate to expect round-the-clock work from a leader.”

You will need to honestly assess how long you can continue if changes are not made. I suggest developing a plan for remaining with the company (including establishing boundaries and adding resources), but also developing a plan for considering new opportunities.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.
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