I know since Tuesday morning that we will need to complete assignments A, B & C by Friday. Normally all three would require the full working days from Tuesday to Friday - so we start working on those tasks.

On Wednesday morning, we find out that we also need to deliver X & Y on Friday, as well as Z on Thursday (same work duration). These have higher priority than A, B & C, but our deadline on A, B & C doesn't change - we have to deliver all six assignments anyway.

What we have done so far is deliver all six by staying up all night. However, this keeps happening more and more regularly and I (and those who report to me, whom I delegate all this work) get to a point where working overtime just leads to tiredness, pains and mistakes.

In other words, even if we manage to do all six, the quality is sometimes considerably lower than if I/we had worked while being fully rested, awake and focused.

Would it come across as professional, proactive and positive/accountable to explain to my managers that working overtime will lead to bad quality and human error, whereas resting and working while focused will lead to much better quality?

Note when I am talking about "internal" deadlines I mean those set by the department for itself, rather than assignments required by client needs or the overall company.

  • 2
    It certainly sounds like you are being overworked. In the long run, this isn't going to be effective. – user10911 Jan 29 '14 at 1:22
  • Hey TimeVsQuality, and welcome to The Workplace! I think this has the core of a great question, but you may get better answers if you ask, "How can I approach my bosses about improving this situation in the future?" rather than "Will it come across professional if I ask?" You can make a quick edit if that sounds good to you. Thanks in advance! – jmac Jan 29 '14 at 2:11
  • "What we have done so far is deliver all six by staying up all night." — what do you plan to do when they ask you for eight, or twelve, or twenty? – user7444 Jan 30 '14 at 12:09

You mentioned these are internal deadlines and not necessarily coming from clients. There are a few things you can do.

  1. Work with the company management and determine how much over-time is too much. Track it and make sure your people do not burn-out.
  2. Adjust your planning. Your situation has proven you cannot predict the projects that need to be done at the beginning of a week, so stop thinking you will always have a full day to dedicate to them. Things happen and other projects with more priority seem to always occur.
  3. An alternate to #2 would be to plan the full week with the given projects (ABC), but make some notation/provision that this is predicated on no other projects with a higher priority being added. In other words, the plans to have ABC done by Friday get erased and replaced with doing XYZ and maybe A.

This isn't uncommon, but it has to be managed. You have a lot of work to do if your management starts to complain that your people aren't working hard enough because they never work over-time. You'll know you're doing your job when you spot the employee that is volunteering too much over-time and you send him/her home with the threat of unplugging their computer ;)

  • 3
    #3 - Exactly. As soon as X, Y and Z showed up, someone should have responded "okay, so we're going to drop A, B, and C altogether, correct?" When you say "we have to deliver all six", that's the time when you say "it's not possible to deliver all of these in the time we have available. Which projects take precedence?" – Adam V Jan 29 '14 at 16:32

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