June 22, 2005

Workload and Responsibility

I'm going to bring back this blog - just not quite yet. But sometimes there's something you just have to say and define for the world.

Workload: What's currently on your plate that you know needs to be done/delegated.

Responsibility: Everything you "own" that could, all at once, immediately jump onto your plate and demand to be eaten by morning (or next Thursday, which still isn't reasonable.).

The longer you stay with one employer, the more of BOTH you acquire. And, typically, you get fairly good with the workload portion and knowing how much you can handle (if your responsibilities are predictable) and when you'll need help or need to delegate.

However, it's the responsibility factor that I think a lot of employers mischaracterize. Responsibility is:

1) Being the one who is called at 4:00 a.m. because a server is down in the Czech Republic and it interfaces with your application so the people who typically go through the Czech Republic interface can't get to your application and are upset.

2) Handling someone's new interpretation of a specification that's sat dormant for two months and then suddenly is active again (remember the next Thursday comment) and has become urgent.

3) Being aware that one of your accounts can at any time request that you be in a different city next week for two or three days to close a sales call.

4) Not scheduling your own vacation because it would impact a project that no one else can do.

5) Taking calls on your vacation because ... (see #4)

6) Knowing that on day [x] (but you're not sure exactly which day [x] actually is...just that it's soon) you will manage conflicting needs for different clients where working on one jeopardizes your ability to complete the other.

None of these things is scheduled and on the plate as workload, and yet it's all still looming because you know for doing this so long exactly what it all means. And you consider it every day because to not consider it means that you run the risk of being reactive instead of proactive. And with the combination of workload and responsibility like that, you can't AFFORD to be reactive.

And, if you're wise, you keep your workload as small as possible. If not, your weeks are 60+ hours because your workload is 35 to 40, and then there are all the things you didn't plan for that still rear their urgent, and sometimes ugly, heads. So a 40 - 45 hour week is much more likely actually fully productive and better managed than a 60 hour frazzled reactive week.

Just thought it worth one additional comment. The downside. You're paid for your workload - the things you do in the "normal" course of business. (As if business were normal!) You're not paid for how well you handle responsibility or the fires you put out before they leap into the meadow or a neighbor's home.

I believe this is an issue with the business world, especially the IT portion.


Posted by hln at June 22, 2005 08:53 AM | Life

YAY! You're back!... sorta!

*leaves plate of comforting chocolate chip cookies*

Posted by: Harvey at June 22, 2005 08:31 PM

So great to see a post, and to hear that you may be able to come back soon!

Your post really hit home. This is EXACTLY what I'm struggling with at the moment too, though I didn't realise it until you put it so succinctly. Can't take my holidays when I'd prefer, even though I'm owed loads of overtime, (and I'm not particularly senior, nor well paid) because nobody's left who can cover what I do. And being low man on the totem pole, I'm the one others unload their workload on so they can have time to manage their resposibilities... so I have to handle my responsibilities outside regular hours. Thanks for helping me see what's actually going on.

Actually I could take the holidays, because my superior wouldn't know that granting me that time would lead to a massive mess until it all actually blew up. But I know, because I keep track of my responsibilities, and abandoning them just isn't how I work.

I'm seriously starting to consider that it's time to go back to working for myself, where I can charge for looking after the responsibilities as well as the workload.

Really looking forward to reading some more 'weavings'. Especialy if it also means you've managed a way to get both work elements under your control.


Posted by: Light & Dark at June 22, 2005 08:54 PM

I'm sorry you're stuck like that with the tires spinning. Yes, I know exactly what you mean, and it happens in other businesses besides the IT portion (my daughter has had the same thing happening to her - she's in logistics!)

One of my friends was up all night for several nights in a row... her husband is in IT and was on call. A piece of equipment went down one night and took 6 lines with it... someone gave AT&T his cell phone number - so the phone rang ever hour as they got each line back up! Next night it was some other stupid problem that could wait until morning...

I don't know how to solve these things - but this is the reason many people burn out at work. Anyhow, I hope you get a handle on it soon! We've missed you.

Posted by: Teresa at June 22, 2005 10:49 PM

You guys are great - thanks!

I'm hoping to clean up the blog (spam), redo the focus a bit, change the look and feel, and be back fully within a couple of weeks. Until then, hope my comment spam doesn't offend anyone.


Posted by: hln at June 23, 2005 04:41 AM

I'm just glad you're alive :) It was purest dumb luck I checked in today.

Posted by: Victor at June 23, 2005 12:14 PM

I keep coming back here hoping you would be back. You're a great writer.

And there was much rejoicing...

Posted by: Blackfive at June 24, 2005 09:19 AM

1) Workload *vs* Responsibility ... amen :-)

2) As for your return to blogging, the RSS aggregator never stops reading, even when I cannot (see #1).

Posted by: ryan at June 25, 2005 12:51 AM

Nowhere is this more true than at 42nd and Treadmill, which I am going to vacate for most of the month of July just to have the pleasure of not knowing what horrible things are happening to them in my absence.

I do a 48-hour week, and it seldom if ever drops much below that, but I never let it get above 52 if there's any way around it (and there's always a way around it if I think things through).

Posted by: CGHill at June 26, 2005 07:29 AM
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