I find it very important to be professional in work situations.

I currently work extreme hours. Basically I just work and sleep. I joined the company several months ago as a manager and quickly discovered the area I'm responsible for was in a disastrous state. At the same time everyone expects me to deliver excellent results now. My predecessor was fired because of lack of results. I was hired but my team was reduced significantly in comparison with my predecessor's. Currently I'm the only one in the team, but after fighting for it for months got promises I can grow my team.

I've discussed all that with my bosses of course. I have repeatedly flagged these problems.

Yesterday an urgency re-surfaced - they happen a lot. Heads of some other teams jumped at me requesting an immediate resolution. Whereas the urgency does cause them problems, I'm not able to solve it quickly, especially given that the expert responsible for the solution left (budget reduction), I'm alone and have 20 other topics (many of which are extremely important themselves) on the agenda. Also, it's simply not something that even a technically skilled person can solve straightaway. They all know that since I've discussed the situation with them before and offered a preliminary 70% solution to the problem - which cost me a few nights to develop.

After reacting calmly and explaining the situation, they kept requesting an immediate 100% solution, which I wasn't able to deliver. I replied telling them I'm currently doing the jobs of several people and I can't be expected to improve the situation so quickly.

I'm very unhappy with myself. They aren't the right target of rants and I realize it sounded like a complaint.

What should I do now?

  • 104
    I am not sure what you did? Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 6:12
  • 92
    You can point out which part of what you did you consider unprofessional? The only unprofessional things I'm seeing are those done to you by your company and peers.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 6:34
  • 4
    Sounds like you need to have your manager be responsible for how you allocate your time. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 8:12
  • 14
    You say you want to know how to recover from this but according to your question, the only person upset with what you said is you. Are your bosses even upset with what you said to the other team heads?
    – BSMP
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 8:16
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    This question is too vague to give any real advice. Communication is so broad and it's not clear what the unprofessional part is that should be being dealt with. Please clarify this question if you want any real advice.
    – spacetyper
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 0:54

9 Answers 9


You have acted professionally. You need to be job hunting and focus on that, this is an extremely toxic environment. Hired as a manager with no team is a red flag in itself. You also need to step back and recognise the situation for what it is rather than take things at face value.

It seems axiomatic that the previous manager and the whole team had enough, the talk of budget and people being fired doesn't hold water. No sane company would dismiss a complete team doing critical work. If somehow it happened they would not expect one person to take over immediately.

Every time I have seen this happen it's because a key person left and started an exodus. There is only one realistic remedy which isn't being applied. The only way is if they replace with a professional and then give him/her all the support and resources necessary to get everything on track.

This isn't happening, there could be multiple causes ranging from some higher level rationalisation or avoidance of blame to someone needing a scapegoat or worse. But none of that concerns you, it may eventually come to light but will not benefit you in any way.

  • 28
    +1 Your management are knowingly overloading you, inspite of losing your predecessor and their team. This is a slow motion car crash, nothing you can do will change their expectations at this point. The one thing they have going for them is that you are mistakenly taking responsibility for the situation. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:38
  • 43
    Also to note that if OP's job is all SNAFU, then working crazy hours won't help. Take some time and try and get more sleep. I've found that sleep is wildly underappreciated by lots of people. Work will still be crazy, but you'll be better rested at the very least.
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:14
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    +100 The problem seems to be from the top-down here, not the bottom-up. And they seem to be leading by fear (i.e. abuse). That management style uses bullying to "make things happen". The problem is, it forces the employee to make sacrifices to make the impossible possible: working crazy hours, having no family life, getting poor sleep, etc. Don't do it. Run, as fast as you can. They torched the building; it's time to evacuate.
    – bob
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 17:16

You right now seem to be working for a company where stating that "something is an urgency" gets you immediate priority. And everybody knows it. So every single problem becomes an urgency.

But you are ONE person and can only work as much as you can. Of course you want to make a good impression. But you WON'T by overworking and burning out in the shortest possible amount of time.

As Malisbad said: First things to do are:

  • make a list
  • prioritize it
  • let anybody above you who is relevant agree with the prioritized list

If somebody approaches you with an urgency then there are two possibilities:

  1. He is above you in hierarchy

Then of course he can change your priorities, but ask him to make sure the person on the list who gets "deprioritized" is informed that his "urgency" suddenly became less urgent. At least he should give you in writing the order to change priorities. Thenyou can forward this information for the now "second on list".

  1. He is on the same level or lower in hierarchy

Tell him, how YOU prioritize his request and that he needs to reach out for somebody "higher" if he disagrees. If he does -> go back to 1

Most important thing for you: DON'T do evenings / nights / weekends to compensate for the lack of resources.

When you start a new job of course you want to do it well. And doing 45 or 50 hours a week instead of e.g. 40 hours is acceptable for a reduced amount of time to "get into it".

But replacing sleep with work or replacing free days with work will not do you any good and in the end will REDUCE your overall productivity down to a complete stall (=burnout).

I guarantee you: You WILL GET SICK if you continue to work like this. Make them accept the limits of your arrangement or quit. That's about all to say.

There is a quite well known expression:


My boss just recently told me his version of this, and I totally agree with his version:


  • "LEAVE IT" is still an acceptable option. It turns out that a great many tasks we think are "urgent" or "essential" can actually be put aside and the world gets on just fine. Learning to recognize them and say no is difficult, but a worthy endeavor. I highly recommend the book "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown
    – Seth R
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:16
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    yes, but my boss sees "LEAVE IT" as one option of "CHANGE IT" as leaving is a change as well...
    – Tode
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:18
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    Quite the opposite, if you do it right. An example of "leaving it" in OP's case would be someone coming to them with another request and OP responding "Sorry, that is not a priority over my other tasks and I don't have the bandwidth to take it on. It will either need to wait or you'll have to do without." (actually, what you suggest in your answer) Learning to be ok with "Leaving it" will very much prevent OP from getting sick.
    – Seth R
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:41
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    “But replacing sleep with work or replacing free days with work will not do you any good”. Absolutely! And, although it's less important, in the long term it won't do your company any good, either — however much it might seem so at the time, or however much pressure is put on you. The company needs the people and skills and organisation to do all this work, day in, day out, without overtime or stress. The harder you work now, the less likely it is to get there, and the longer it'd take.
    – gidds
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 19:20
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    +1, but regarding: “He is above you in hierarchy […] Then of course he can change your priorities” Only if he’s not just above you, but also above the person whose priorities you are currently following. If a mid-manager says “jump now!” but yesterday a higher manager said “don’t jump this week!”, you must be able to tell the mid-manager “I’m sorry, but I’m following higher-manager’s instructions.”
    – PLL
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 10:58

You say:

I find it very important to be professional in work situations.

So let´s assess the situation:

  • You currently work extreme hours.
  • The area you responsible for was/is in a disastrous state.
  • Everyone expects you to deliver excellent results.
  • Your team was reduced significantly.
  • You had to fight for months to get the "promise" of additional resources.
  • Your boss does not react adequately to your "red flags"
  • You are managing and developing solutions at the same time?
  • Key experts where laid off, without proper handover and transfer of responsibility.

What should I do now?

I´d say the professional thing to do here is polish your resume and look for a job that is actually doable.

If you absolutely insist on trying to burn up yourself to further the wealth of your bosses:

Make a plan which resources you need to do your job professionally and how much time you need to build them. Get this plan to your boss and make it clear, in writing, that these are the minimum requirements/resources you deem necessary to meet the responsibilities you currently have. Also make it clear, in writing, that with your current resource limitation you can´t fulfill expectations like the one you mentioned to your professional standards.


Stop working crazy hours!

  • 13
    "Stop working crazy hours!" <-- could you make it bold and bigger? O.P. needs this. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:13

Currently I'm the only one in the team, but after fighting for it for months got promises I can grow my team.

You do realize this means they can't afford to fire you, right?

For what it's worth, I'm inclined to believe that Kilisi is right and what actually happened is that your previous manager and their team told this company where they could go and how they could get there. But even if this company actually decided it was a good idea to fire an entire team handling urgent issues and only have one person doing the work, they probably1 still understand that they can't have zero people doing this work.

So the two things you need to do (other than what's already been stated) to recover from this is:

  • Realize you have power in this situation.

  • Learn to be OK with other people being upset. Yes, it's annoying when people keep asking for something after you've explained why it's not happening but that doesn't mean your "No" has to become a "Yes".

I'm also going to reiterate the point that you need to stop overworking yourself. You say in reply to Malisbad:

I don't do much apart from fixing urgencies and there are so many of them that the fact something is an urgency doesn't mean I will be able to prioritize it anymore.

If working extreme hours doesn't fix the problem of there being too many urgent issues then why keep working extreme hours? If they're going to be upset anyway then what does burning yourself out accomplish? If the answer is, "I manage to just barely keep everything from falling apart if I work 16 hours a day" then that's also the reason why they haven't hired more help.

1Based on the comments this answer is getting, I need to make this more explicit: by saying the word "probably" I am not saying that your job is absolutely sure thing.

But they've also shown that, despite all the complaints from other teams, they are OK with tasks that are "urgent" not getting done immediately. You've already reached a point where these urgent tasks aren't getting done and they've neither fired you for not doing the impossible or hired enough people to solve the problem.

To me, this implies that nothing drastic will happen if things are slightly worse due to OP not working around the clock.

Obviously, the OP knows their situation best, they know how their actual superiors feel about their work (or if they don't, they're the only one who can get that information), only they can figure out what the real risk of adjusting their hours is, and only they can decide if it is worth it.

But I strongly disagree with the idea that OP is completely helpless and has to run themselves ragged whenever anyone at the company says so.

  • 12
    "they can't afford to fire you" - "Job security" is a complete fallacy. They'll fire the OP in a heart beat and continue to ride the dead horse until they find a new sucker to abuse.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:38
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    @FreeMan truer things were nether said
    – Strader
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:15
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    @fr Heh. Just because they cannot afford to fire you doesn't mean they won't.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 16:03

As Kilisi said:

Hired as a manager with no team is a red flag in itself. You also need to step back and recognize the situation for what it is rather than take things at face value.

You need to step back to normal working hours framework and reassess the situation.

Not having a team can mean you are a manager by name only, due to large list of urgent issues you would need to concentrate on them and demand at least one specialist team member per general stream, because your work as a manager should be communication and control, you cannot be expected to be hands-on expert in all the issues outstanding.

if you will be denied a team , run.

You are set to fail, perhaps scapegoated.

Gather any piece of communication with other department and your bosses, save them away from your corporate email.

Your answer to emergencies should be more managerial

i dont have a team member to address it now

and less overworked junior

i dont have an answer to that

Perhaps something in the area of

Let me see if i can help you with limited resources i was provided


It's okay to explain that you have a certain capacity of X and can manage work that fits in to Y, don't beat yourself up. Take all of their requests, sit down and prioritize with your peers. They can argue with each other about what is more important, but make sure that dependencies are managed from your end. Then, you'll have a prioritized list of all the work that you need to do, agreed upon by the stakeholders, and you can get cracking. Keep levels of communication high, and ensure that they get status updates on the work as it progresses. It's ok to tell peers that you are overloaded and are managing far more work than you can complete in that timeframe. What you don't want to go is gripe about it constantly. Maintain the work list, keep comms open and flowing, focus on the tasks in the agreed to priority. GET IT IN WRITING


  • Prioritize the work
  • Engage stakeholders and communicate with them frequently
  • Ensure that you understand the requirements
  • Work on getting that team under you
  • Provide honest estimates of the work that include the injections


  • Accept work outside of your plan without
    • providing notice that will push back the current work, or work below it in the priority list
    • getting stakeholder agreement on a revised list
  • Work yourself to death. You'll burn out, and that's gonna destroy only you and your peers will be able to assign blame to you
  • Provide optimistic estimates
  • Constantly complain about being overworked. In the end, you accepted the work and you'll just bee seen as a whiner
  • I do prioritize and communicate the prioritization a lot from the start. But this doesn't work. There are constant urgencies I'm expected to fix immediately. I don't do much apart from fixing urgencies and there are so many of them that the fact something is an urgency doesn't mean I will be able to prioritize it anymore.
    – user68203
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 6:20
  • 3
    @user68203 By "this doesn't work" do you actually mean "people still expect me to change my plan whenever they ask and get upset when I don't"? Because no amount of communication will make unreasonable people see reason.
    – BSMP
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 8:20

Start by documenting everything. Save those emails and keep a diary of any other interactions (just a document listing times and dates and a brief summary). Keep records of what tasks you have on your plate.

When people demand results direct them to your boss. Ask them to ask your boss to assign you to the project they want you to work on. Give your boss reasonable timeframe estimates for completing work and stick to them.

Then look for a better job. If you get reviews or they try to fire you in the mean time use your evidence to defend your position and make it clear that firing you for lack of performance would be constructive dismissal.


Everyone believes their problem is most urgent.

You are not in a position to decide.

  1. Write down each requirement with an estimate of how much work is needed over what period of time. Say how many hours per week this will require. You will arrive at a total of, let's say, 20 days per week. This is clearly impossible.

  2. Copy it to everyone relevant.

  3. Say that it is not within your brief to prioritise in favour of any particular person.

  4. Say that you are currently working a full capacity at projects X and Y at H hours per week each.

  5. Say that you will work at full capacity at whichever they decide to prioritise.

  6. Say you are prepared to work (let's say 7*16 hours per week!!!! and sleep the rest). This is not advisable so make it more realistic.

  7. Tell them this number and ask them to notify you in writing how they want you to split these hours.

  8. Stop worrying and carry on with your current work load at a manageable pace.

  9. If their proposed schedule contains more hours than are possible then point this out politely and ask for clarification.


If they refuse to be specific and continue to say everything is urgent and should be done ASAP, then you actually list everything thing on your plate, add up the hours needed and tell them what ASAP is in terms of days. Say that, if you work equal hours on each project, ASAP will be 6 months (or whatever). Ask them if that particular ASAP is acceptable. If they say yes, then go ahead, if no, then politely ask again for some form of prioritisation.

You can't do the impossible

Nobody can do the impossible. The best you can do is break everything down into easily digestible numbers and lay those on the table. Let others decide or fight out the relative importance.


Assuming you don't want to leave your job and you just want to salvage this specific situation, here are the steps I recommend.

Apologize and move on. It's not fun to apologize, and it's awkward for everyone else too, so make it brief and move on. Something like "I apologize for the outburst. Now let's talk how to solve this."

Acknowledge and empathize with the problem. People want to know that you hear them. Read back what the problem is, and paraphrase the impacts and everyone's complaints.

Indicate your desire to help. If there is a reason why you can't do what they ask, they have to understand that it's not because of your attitude or your wants. So let them know that you wish to be on their side.

Make them allies. You're in this together. Start phrasing things as being your mutual problem and your mutual challenge. If possible, enlist them in coming up with potential solutions.

Develop and share a realistic plan forward. Let them know the next steps you're going to perform, what they need to do to assist, and what expectations they can have about timing.

Have boundaries. You have priorities. You have every right to stand your ground. If they think you should change your priorities, consult with your own manager. It's possible you should.

If they don't like it, go back the planning and get them to participate. The solution is owned by everyone. If they can't come up with a better solution then they have to accept yours.

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