3 Proven Ways to Speak Up Without Sounding Like You’re Complaining

At one point or another we have all likely felt burnt out or overextended at work. Especially this past year. And now with less face-time and more uncertainty than ever, many employees are inclined to suffer in silence, even to the detriment of their health. Here is how to distinguish if your feelings of exhaustion are truly the result of being overworked and if so, 3 proven ways to speak up without sounding like you’re complaining! 

When to put your head down and do the work

Before you start screaming from the rooftops, or worse yet, passive aggressively commenting to your teammates and manager (who all may be in the same boat as you) about how overworked you are, take a step back and examine the situation. Is the rise in workload the result of a new project, or an accelerated deadline? Perhaps there is a temporary change in staff on your team or a colleague on maternity leave? If the circumstances are fleeting and especially if they are shared across the department, your best bet is to suffer in silence. Not only will the pain pass, but if you approach it with the right attitude and camaraderie, it can actually be an opportunity to shine!

When you need to make a plan (not a formal complaint)

Do you consistently find yourself working late into the night and scrambling to make deadlines? Do you feel like you have so many balls in the air that something is bound to drop? This may be the result of too much work – but it could also be the product of poor time management. Be honest with your yourself: if you better utilized your time during the day, would you be less likely to work late hours? If so, there are a number of organization tools that can help you make a plan and get the most out of your working hours. Here are 18 to check out. And let’s be honest, it’s better if you figure this out before whining to your boss (who likely already knows if this is the root cause of your late hours!)

When to be direct, speak up, and how to do it

You’ve assessed the situation, evaluated your own organizational skills, and come to the conclusion that the workload is simply too much. You are narrowly getting by but it’s only a matter of time before the quality of your work starts to slip, or your health takes a hit. Now is the time to speak up! Here is a simple plan for how to talk to your manager in a productive way that not only won’t be construed at whining, but may even elevate you in their estimations!

  1. Schedule the meeting and preface with a clear, but succinct objective.  Something simple like “I would like to meet to discuss the various projects I have currently and how best to manage the workload and deliverables” often does the trick! It will set the stage in a productive but obvious way.
  2. Base your conversation on data, not emotions. Prepare timelines, workflow lists, and other resources to clearly map out the tasks and deadlines being asked of you. Simply saying “I feel overworked” without backing it up with evidence will dimmish the validity of your claim (and yes, make you sound like you are whining). This will also create a tangible outline for how best to move forward with a solution. Which brings us to our next pillar….
  3. Have a solution. Waive your magic wand, how would you solve your current situation (and extra people cannot be the only answer)? Extended deadlines, guidance on priority projects to tackle first, project management tools or perhaps a creative way to work more efficiently as a team?  By living in the solution, you not only help your own situation, but (and perhaps equally as important), your manager will appreciate that you did not simply dump this on her to solve.  

We’ve all been there and will be there again. The work simply has to get done. Sometimes it’s a temporary pain, but other times, it is a systemic issue that is threatening to push you over the edge. Be thoughtful in your approach, but when necessary, you must speak up. Be direct, be prepared, and live in the solution to turn what may feel wrought with anxiety into a productive, step forward.