After joining a company as a low-level manager I discovered my task scope is much bigger than what I expected.

That's not a problem in itself - I have enough experience to lead these projects and tasks. The problem is I simply don't have the resources to fulfill that.

I have just 1 person in my team; the colleague responsible for exactly the same tasks at our partner company has 5. You can imagine what my task list looks like and it doesn't look like it's going to get better, actually it will probably get worse.

Realistically speaking it's not possible to do all we are expected to do in a team of 2. 3 would be the absolute minimum, 4 would be preferable.

I talked to my manager but he doesn't see the need for more team members. I really want to stay at the company. What arguments would you use?

  • Did you use any specific arguments already when you brought it up? Did you reference that partner company? And have you discussed level of detail required for your "task scope"? It could be that you're not aligned on what is expected from your team. Did the team lose members or did it grow to justify your hire? Do you know how they handled things before you arrived?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 9:00
  • Have you asked your manager which tasks are most important and how many you think you can reasonably complete and how many will not be done by their deadline. Alternatively, if there's no deadline, have you told her when you expect all the things will be done?
    – Erik
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 9:00
  • Does your company have money? Is that project critically important to your company? Commented May 15, 2020 at 9:01
  • 1
    @Lilienthal, to the extent possible. It's difficult to argue with arguments since he cuts me telling me: no budget for it. The team wasn't bigger before. My predecessor was fired for not being able to manage all that. Yes, I know, it doesn't sound optimistic in terms of my fate.
    – thebusyone
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 9:43
  • 4
    If there is no money then there is no money and seem that you are asking the wrong question as you can't squeeze blood out of the rock. Seems like what you have to work on instead is narrowing the scopes and work with what you got, have you tried that?
    – Aida Paul
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 11:23

3 Answers 3


Simple: you explain what will happen and give them a choice.

Boss, with only one resource on the team, Project Foo will take a year to complete. This will block Initiative Bar, so we won't be ready by the end of year, and this is likely to cost us up to $1M in sales.

If I can hire another person, this would cost us $100,000 all in, but we could finish in 6 months and ship before Christmas.

Alternatively, we could cut scope so we can deliver faster. This would mean dropping tasks X, Y and Z.

What do you want to do?

Now it's their problem, not yours. And create a paper trail of the discussion, particularly if he chooses not to hire more.

Note that this wording assumes you're working on a project of fixed scope and duration, but this just works as well if you're handling a business process. Just explain what will happen if you can't complete everything, and what the options are.

  • I know this wasn't the main point of your answer, but when doing this be sure to account for onboarding/communication costs. The amount of time to complete a project is rarely days to release = Total amount of work in days / number of people . Commented May 20, 2020 at 0:25

What arguments would you use?

If there is no budget then arguments won't work. The last manager was fired because he/she couldn't handle it, and you're headed down the same path unless you get proactive.

You have two options:-

Escalate the issue to the people who do have a budget.

Job hunt.

Best to do both.

I really want to stay at the company.

This makes no sense under the circumstances, so re-evaluate it.


Show, don't tell

While lambshaanxy's answer is a good one, it doesn't apply to all cases. It applies in cases where upper management is open to improvement.

But there are situations where upper management is either oblivious to or doesn't quite care about the workload of the staff (multiple levels down from them). I'm not implying malevolence here, just a matter of them being preoccupied with higher level decisions.

You've somewhat confirmed my suspicion when you said

I talked to my manager but he doesn't see the need for more team members.

Which seems like you're dealing with upper management that disagrees about the staffing issue and puts their opinion above that of someone who is closer to it (you).

You talked to your manager, and you focused on a concrete issue. However, it's possible that this manager has been actively managing the staffing themselves and therefore is unwilling to let you override the decision they already made. Again, that's not necessarily malevolent - though it can be construed as pride/ego depending on the situation.

If your manager is intent on making the staffing calls and ignores anyone else's input1, then they should also feel the repercussions from the decision they made (i.e. badly staffing the company).

1 I'm not saying that management is in the wrong by making their own decision. There are situations where they are actually right and you are wrong, where overriding you is the correct decision.
However, those who make the decision should experience the fallout from making a bad decision - otherwise how will they ever know they made a bad decision and learn from it?

You can do what you can do

You and your team member can only do so much in the hours that you're contracted for. If management piles more tasks on top of that upper limit, then that's just a pile of tasks that's not going to get done on time.

Report that the extra work can't get done within the expected deadline, ask which work takes priority, and start tackling the work in descending order of priority at a reasonable working pace.
As an aside, if "everything is high priority", then nothing is. If you cannot get an answer on priority, then it's up to you to tackle the work as you see fit.

When asked why the additional (lower priority) tasks were not done on time, show them a fully tracked worklog of what you have been working on, and how there weren't any more hours in the week to actually take on these extra tasks.

There are two possibilities here on how the manager responds.

"So what would it take to get it done?"

This is the part where it was never malevolent mismanagement.

They engage you in an actual discussion, and now have concrete proof that there is not enough manpower to handle the requested workload. An open discussion on how to fix the staffing issues can be had.

It's possible that you're only going to get one extra team member, which may mean that this cycle will repeat again, but if that's what it takes to get management on board, that's what it takes.

"You dropped the ball!"

This is the part where it was malevolent mismanagement.

They resort to blaming you and/or your team member for not getting the work done, not doing enough overtime, having caused the delays, or just ignore your feedback and just tell you to do better next time.

If they see the concrete proof that your working hours have been filled with tasks and yet deny this proof in favor of laying unfounded blame, then this company has a severely toxic attitude (at least in regards to how your team is treated).

My suggestion would be to look for another job. No amount of effort is likely to solve toxicity coming from higher up. You can try and be the umbrella that shields your team, but an umbrella doesn't stop the rain and it will eventually break down or wear out.

That's not to say it's impossible to turn things around, but it'd require you having to take on actual adversaries who outrank you, on top of you being a new hire. The odds of you coming out on top are astronomically low.

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