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I work at a great small startup. I'm the only person in my position which involves the look and feel of our product. I am positioned when we grow to lead a team that will work on these things with me. It's the primary reason I work here because I want the future team and want to utilize my leadership skills and I have ownership over a product.

Lately I've been getting slammed with a lot of work that only I can do, as I'm the only person working on my portion of product. I found a lot of work I was receiving could be avoided because it was too soon to begin projects as they weren't well thought out or it was unnecessary for MVP and I have too much on my plate. I voiced my concerns, admitted I was too gun-ho to please the ideas and suggested we spend more time considering options and concepts and less time diving into them (because I get stuck with that part by myself).

I told them I was overwhelmed and I find that I'll end up re-doing a lot of work because we didn't take more time thinking things over. I mentioned that if I work late during crunch time and always working late then nothing is crunch time. It was for the most part, understood and moves have been made to lighten the workload as well as taking my suggestions when I say "That's not necessary for now".

I do feel like I'm now a bit of a downer, but I feel it's necessary to keep focus even if I'm no longer winning favorite team member points. However I still get a lot of comments related to product I feel are unnecessary such as "Why don't we do X" or "Don't do X, Y would be better". Sometimes these are valid points I take underway or other times and I'll reply "Good idea, but let's table it until I do X and Y" if I feel it's unnecessary. Sometimes it's not always accepted and I end up doing the work which is fine.

My real issue falls on when it's really arbitrary stuff. Particularly one employee is pushy (and is not my superior, mentions they studied something similar to me in the early 80's, though, it's not what they're hired for. It's what I have ownership of.) who will really push on issues "X doesn't make any sense, it should be Y or Z". Sometimes the Founder will reply "Good point, we can change that". This will be sometimes be about something minute such as an example for engineers. I will voice the insignificance of the problem which is sometimes accepted but I can't shake the "He doesn't want to do it" vibes coming off of a few people (and hey, sometimes I don't, but if my engineers tell me they get the point that's good enough for their purposes).

Other times however, it'll be insisted upon and it makes me uncomfortable. I'll say something along the lines of "I have A, B, and C still pending, where does New Idea X and New Idea Y come in on the priority list"? That's on a good day. Other days I'll sort of sigh and say "If you think it's necessary, I can do it." I try not to do that, but that's my reaction sometimes. It's usually because I'm agreeing to something I feel I shouldn't have to.

I think the worst thing I do, is if I'm really adamant, I'll say "I disagree, it's just not important right now, I still need to do X, Y and Z. We can revisit this another time". I say something like this when I know I'm being diverted down a path that will have a large negative impact on time management. This tends to come out when I feel overwhelmed by others opinions Even 3 hours wasted on something really arbitrary can be a big loss.

I get testy because I am the lead of my "department of one", I want to show I know what I'm doing but I'm limited by time and resources and trying to make the best of them.

What are some ways I can navigate this situation better? I want to come off more optimistic and less annoyed.I have pointed out some of my replies are better than others so feedback on the more positive ones would be helpful to improve upon them.

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Sometimes the Founder will reply "Good point, we can change that". This will be sometimes be about something minute such as an example for engineers. I will voice the insignificance of the problem which is sometimes accepted [...]

Good. Seems that you are successfully pushing back unnecessary or minute changes when they arise. Don't feel bad for doing so, you are just doing your job and expressing your professional opinion.

Saying "is sometimes accepted" implies some of those changes end up happening. This suggests that for those cases, the changes were necessary, so other coworkers suggesting changes is not completely a negative thing...

[...] but I can't shake the "He doesn't want to do it" vibes coming off of a few people

This is most likely only in your head, so I suggest you don't take it that way, nor feel "bad" when pushing back changes that you feel are unnecessary.

If the change ends up rejected means that you were right and it's not critical or priority right now.

Now, I suggest that you should do a self-analysis to see if you are really just pushing back the changes "just because", or just because other coworkers are meddling with "your" project. Perhaps (just guessing), you don't even consider any of those changes suggested (not even the ones that end up happening and that were not unnecessary) and why you feel that vibe from your coworkers.

I think the worst thing I do, is if I'm really adamant, I'll say "I disagree, it's just not important right now, I still need to do X, Y and Z. We can revisit this another time". I say something like this when I know I'm being diverted down a path that will have a large negative impact on time management.

As I see it this is not as bad phrasing as you think.

In fact, it's a professional and assertive response to say when someone feels like brainstorming when it's not the ideal time for that. Saying "I disagree" does not make it rude; it's just a (valid) statement.

Besides, you are not just dismissing the idea, you are instead saying it's not priority right now, that there are still features to finish, and even leaving the door open by saying you can revisit this another time.

Other times however, it'll be insisted upon and it makes me uncomfortable. I'll say something along the lines of "I have A, B, and C still pending, where does New Idea X and New Idea Y come in on the priority list"?

This is, IMO, also a potentially polite and assertive response (just beware that "something along the lines of" does not mean rude tone).

You are not completely dismissing the new ideas. You are instead exposing the tasks that are still pending, and asking where would those new ideas come into play (if selected) and how would the priorities be.

If you are truly burdened by the other tasks, any reasonable manager and/or coworker would see your point and realize that the new ideas can wait.

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  • Thanks! I think there's always a risk of me feeling it's "my" project. I have to be conscience of it, and sometimes I do feel it's their uneducated opinion vs. my experience, which isn't great. I do feel when it comes to their expertise I respect it, I may voice a gut feeling but always end with "But I trust your judgement/experience on this". It's not reciprocated and I have good days where I field that well and other days I think I'm a bit grouchy. I'm not always right and when they have great ideas I'll go out of my way to acknowledge it. The note about tone is true, mine does vary. May 6 '20 at 23:02
  • Another thing that helps is, if their requests are via email or IM or similar, don't answer right away. If you feel that you may answer with a not so great tone give yourself some time to "cool down" (a minute or so). This sometimes helps to give more polite answers when one is not on your best days
    – DarkCygnus
    May 7 '20 at 1:04
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Talk to your management about hiring additional staff underneath you.

You mentioned that you’re in a leadership role, but you don’t have any subordinates - you’re a “department of one”. One way to reduce your workload would be to hire some - if you don’t have enough resources to do something, you might be able to do it by increasing your resources and delegating tasks to them.

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    Sorry, wrong answer. Throwing more resources in a badly managed situation is just going to make it worse. Before you scale you need to sort our prioritization and decision making first.
    – Hilmar
    May 6 '20 at 13:40
  • @Hilmar Depends on what the problem is. It sounds like the problem is "giving me more work than I'm able to do" and in that case, adding more resources is a viable solution.
    – nick012000
    May 6 '20 at 14:55
  • Our engineering team (top priority) only recently grew from two to four. 6-18 months away from a small team. Also @Hilmar also said, there's decision making issues. I can foresee at this size, someone else just getting put on other tasks & saying "yes" to everything I don't. The engineering department only recently received a hierarchy structure. I'm new to a leadership position at a company so I'm trying to do a better job. I can lead a team but dealing with peers is more challenging because I don't want to be a pushover otherwise it's not fair to them. May 6 '20 at 22:55
  • This is a good answer. I was an inexperienced manager in the past with a lot of responsibilities, and my most serious mistake was this one. May 7 '20 at 10:59

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