Let's say that I'm working in a team of QA Testers. And some automation responsibility comes along. So my boss assigns it to me. This isn't a one time task. This is more like a work-every-week for the rest of my career over here or at least until the automation tool goes obsolete.

Then some other tool + extra automation work is required from the higher management. That gets assigned to me too. Also a responsibility rather than a task.

Next, the higher management makes a couple of demands about things that we should be doing. One of them goes to my colleague and the rest two come onto my plate.

And this process goes on and on.

Whenever I tell my boss that I'm loaded with tasks right now and cannot take anymore, he asks me to define the tasks. There's a blocker for responsibility A, and there's a little bit of waiting time for responsibility B. Using this my boss says that I do have some time to squeeze by to take up an additional responsibility and that it's all doable. Discussions about how much time each tasks take don't lead anywhere because the boss has his own notions of how some ex-employee in the past was able to do it all.

I hope that the scenario that I'm defining above brings out the proper context in which I"m asking this question.

Is there a way to define how much responsibility can be assigned to a person? Or are there no limits because "the employee must have a can-do attitude" and "everything can be done if you will it"?

  • Does this not depend on the tasks, people that you manage, personal circumstances, ..... – Ed Heal Jul 4 '19 at 8:02

It's not a matter of having to perform all of these tasks. This is a simple matter of time management and prioritizing your work.

As each new responsibility comes in, you need to assess how much time it will take and how important it is in your ever-increasing list of stuff to do.

You'll reach a point where there isn't enough work-hours in the day to perform the lower-priority tasks. This is where you inform your manager that you need to re-allocate these tasks to someone else, or put them onto a backlog list, or drop them altogether.

So, the definition is based on using your time most effectively.

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I've had this problem, many times. Here's how I address it.

I keep a prioritized list of the work I have to do, prioritized by urgency. I don't allow more than one task to show up at any given priority. (Three "top priority tasks?" No. No. No.) One line per task; just its name, not its specification.

I share this list with my supervisor routinely, and ask if any priority changes are needed. This is a professional way of showing what I'm doing and not able to do.

I then work on the tasks at or near the top of the list, finishing the ones I can finish. If I'm waiting for somebody on the top-priority task I work on the second- or third- priority task.

One good thing about this: it helps your supervisor make the case for hiring more help if need be.

There are plenty of good software tools (Trello? ) to help with this. But a whiteboard is sufficient. Don't overdo it, or it will turn into another task!

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  • I really like this method. Sharing a list of tasks on my plate on a weekly basis, ordered by their priority brings out everything into the open. This allows a clear picture into what tasks I'll be NOT working in the coming days (the lower priority tasks) and it's up to the boss to take care of those tasks. However, what if the boss says something like - "could you please squeeze in tasks with priority 3 and 4 also along with priority 1 and 2 while you're doing them?" – Mugen Jul 8 '19 at 5:37

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