Edit: I considered this question (How to protest a deadline that is too short?) as a suggested duplicate, but in my situation there is no realistic way to 'protest' a deadline, since there's no real way for it to be moved. Logical arguments to project managers etc don't change contracts or regulatory requirements.
Another edit - It's different from "bus number = 1" (in the suggested duplicate question "getting hit by a bus" in that there are people available to delegate to ( who don't currently have their own workload, they are just waiting around to receive something to do as they are meant to be 'working for me') but I haven't been able to hand over to them. (Although maybe this reduces to the same thing.. what do you think?) This question is focused on "is there any way to break out of the cycle" rather than "how to deal with the situation where I'm the only person in the company who does this" (which essentially treats those people I could delegate to as "non existent"... well, that is an option! Which on reflection is what I've been doing so far.)
TL;DR - I'm currently the only person that can do what I do, and I have to meet hard deadlines (compliance/contracts) that can't be negotiated. I have people I could possibly delegate to, if they were trained and capable, but there just isn't the "bandwidth" to do that training due to intensity of workload. And I'm not sure it's even possible to train up the people I have.
There's a much longer story leading up to this, but I tried to reduce it to the essence of the question (which I hope can also help other people):
In a nutshell -
- Our company has repeating (mostly quarterly but some are monthly or other cycles) deadlines, which are 'hard deadlines' in that they are externally driven by compliance and contractual requirements. Essentially we couldn't blow that deadline without a huge amount of fallout (massive financial penalties, compliance implications, etc).
- There are multiple overlapping cycles of these deadlines, e.g. one has quarterly deliverables at the end of Jan/Apr/Jul/Nov and another on the 15th of Mar/15th of Jun/15th of Sep/15th of Dec (These are examples to illustrate)
- There are a total of about 6 'cycles' (of varying frequency) of these deliverables
- Each "deliverable" requires a substantial amount of work (similar to filling in a tax return with an associated set of accounts, for example) it isn't just a case of "pull the report and email it out" It could take, perhaps, 2 weeks (or more) full time equivalent work. Due to the overlapping deadlines, I'm working on multiple "work streams" at once.
- I am a "key person" in meeting these deadlines. I used to be one of 3 "key" people but through attrition I'm now the only one remaining. (The others left voluntarily for better opportunities, presumably much better pay -- not laid off or fired)
- 2 other people have been recruited to be my "subordinates". I don't have full Line Manager responsibility for them but in theory I'm able (and expected) to delegate some of the workload to them. I am more like their 'team lead'
The 2 new people are well-meaning but not very capable and would require extensive training (and still may not have the aptitude actually) to be able to carry out the role. The company didn't recruit the "calibre" of people needed due to:
-- the salary they were offering which was far below what someone "ready to hit the ground running" would need
-- location (lack of availability of people). We are near a big city, but far enough away that 'big city' sucks up all the good people due to the much better opportunities.
I have tried to delegate stuff, particularly the easier tasks, but ultimately had to re-do most of it myself due to lack of knowledge and also careless mistakes (no attention to detail, presumably due to not caring!)
I'm becoming increasingly overworked and am a "load-bearing employee" (if you haven't come across this term it means the same as a load-bearing wall in a house: the one that everything rests on!) Due to constantly having one deadline or another I can't get any time off as I can't delegate/offload to the new people.
There just isn't enough time or opportunity to train those people, as the deadlines are such that everything is "urgent" and has to be completed as fast as possible, as the deadlines are actually unrealistic and I'm pulling efforts above and beyond what many people would do in order to meet them (working stupid house etc), but that's another story.
I do realise the value in cross-training, delegating etc and I'm not in any way (even subconsciously as far as I can make out..) 'hoarding knowledge'. I really wish I could offload and rely on these people but the fact is... I can't. My boss doesn't trust my 'direct reports' to be able to handle anything that comes up so is reluctant to approve any time off (and as stated there isn't really a "quiet time").
If only I could break out of this cycle and find the 'slack time' to train these 2 people on "most of the work" (on the 80/20 principle) it may help but there just isn't the time available as I am constantly "getting it done" myself and working at an overcommitted speed all the time.
I have tried having them "shadow" me, getting them to "drive" while I give direction, etc. Ultimately this just slowed down the process (so I had to work at an even more unsustainable pace later to make up the time) and they didn't seem to retain that information for the next cycle anyway, so (shame on me) I didn't bother next time and just did it myself.
I see that this isn't sustainable (for me or the company). At this point I know I could leave (like my original 2 "key" colleagues) for something much better organised and better paid, but unfortunately I feel a sort of commitment to getting it done!
How (or indeed 'is it possible') can I carve out the time from an impossibly demanding schedule to train and babysit others to carry out these processes?
Should I expect more support from my boss? (boss doesn't know ins and outs of what I do and mostly just acts as a 'coordinator', most she has expressed is sympathy to me being in this position!)
If I'm asking the wrong questions, how would you (question-answerers) suggest I address it instead? I'm not sure what question I should be asking. How do you break a cycle when you can't get 'outside' it!