Caught Between Coldhearted and Tired

Dear Dr. Lisa:

This is going to seem like I am being cold. I really am not. My coworker has been diagnosed with a serious illness and she cannot keep up with her share of the workload. Therefore, management has divvied the bulk of her work to the rest of the team. I feel like management is asking a lot of us and they should figure out a better solution. If they would let her go on leave, then we could get a temp. However, she insists on working even though she cannot fully contribute. I don’t want to be seen as cold hearted, but I am tired. It has been a struggle to keep up. Do I say something to management or do I grin and bear it? It just seems unfair to everyone.


Caught Between Coldhearted and Tired


Dear Caught Between Coldhearted and Tired:

I understand your dilemma. I had a colleague who was fighting ovarian cancer. She told me how continuing to work helped her keep her mind active instead of focusing on a grim prognosis. Work kept her feeling hopeful. Fortunately, the team was able to absorb her inability to work full-time to give her what she needed. I take comfort in knowing that we did what we could to support her. Sadly, she did not survive.

Before going to management, there are a few things to consider. First, ask yourself exactly what the impact is to you. Is it affecting your health? Your relationships? Your family? Does your increased workload require you to work significantly more hours? Be honest with yourself. Next, be really clear about what you can and cannot give in this situation. For example, are you willing to work extra hours to keep up with the increased workload and if so, how many? Or is that a non-starter? What is the true burden in this situation? Are there other solutions that have not been considered? With clarity in hand, what can you share with management that makes the situation better for everyone? Setting boundaries for yourself is important. Offering workable solutions is great. Be careful not to get caught up in the fairness of it all because it is not fair that your colleague is sick.

There is one more thing to keep in mind. Difficult times are opportunities for employees to make a name for themselves. Employees who step up during challenges are more likely to be considered for bonuses and promotions. Those who step down during a challenge typically don’t make it to the list. And that is fair.

Get clear and lead the way in offering solutions for the entire team. That will be of great support to your colleague and remove you completely from coldhearted and tired.

Dr. Lisa

P.S. Your theme song is, “Wake When September Ends” by Green Day.



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