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I was given a promotion within my department (Member services) last April. Previously I was a phone representative taking calls in the department.

With my new title I am a non-phone employee. In times of distress however, I would be asked to help out on the lines when needed to make sure stats are protected.

The issue at hand is over the last 8 months we have been continually asked to go on the lines as well as do our job. To put this into perspective: on a daily basis I get 20 emails that require about 10-15 minutes attention each day give or take how big the issue is. Monthly we are asked to go on the phones 3 out of the 4 weeks anywhere from 2-8 hours a day.

The struggle is management only sees the numbers and the short term effect that having us go on the lines causes. There are daily escalations due to me not being able to get my new job done, as well as other specialty positions within the company not getting their jobs done.

Since management is not seeing this as an issue does that mean I should not fight for a plan of action to let us still do our jobs but help when in need? I have worked very hard in the position I hold now and made huge contributions since I took the role on in April of 2016. I don't want the position to go under and be deprioritized.

What is the professional way to go about this and be proactive for our deptartment?

  • For completeness: you have mentioned that you have too much work to your manager and they have stated that handling the calls has priority over your regular job? – Erik Feb 15 '17 at 15:52
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    Yes, that is correct. – Bob Feb 15 '17 at 15:55
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Your job is more important than your position.

You have been told taking calls is a priority.

If you don't follow that priority that is not going to save the position. As long as your boss knows the tasks are not being completed because of time on phone then there is nothing else you should do.

I agree with the comment log how much time you spend on calls and the backlog size at the time you were asked to take calls.

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    Further to this, ensure that when you get bumped to taking calls you respond with an email detailing work that will be set aside. If it is happening daily, keep a weekly log instead. – JohnHC Feb 15 '17 at 16:23
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    I would also make sure you have in writing when you are told to prioritize calls over your regular work. You don't want to show up in a performance review and be accused of not doing your job. – David K Feb 15 '17 at 17:05
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There are daily escalations due to me not being able to get my new job done, as well as other specialty positions within the company not getting their jobs done.

This is what you need to stop. You have been told taking call is the higher priority. However, you need to be proactive in letting people know that you are taking calls and their responses might be delayed. If these are internal people who are being delayed, then you need to make sure that every time you are sent to take calls, that you provide an email to all affected people that your department will not be handling their normal work until the call volume is down. Once you go back to your normal work, email the same people and tell them you are working current issues in the following order. I would have a standard email written and ready to go to all internal people normally affected, so that you can just send it every time in less than a minute. This brings visibility to how often you are being called away and for how long,. It lets people know where they stand in the priorities. It doesn't leave people hanging and wondering why you haven't gotten back to them.

If these email responses are to people outside the organization, this is much harder. You may still need to send an email every time you are pulled but send it up your chain of command including whoever these things get escalated to. However, you should have your boss approve the idea of sending this email to any level higher than him. It is still good to send the emails to the boss on being pulled and returning, so that you can show when things do get escalated, that you could not respond in a timely manner because you were reassigned to working the phones. If you have specific Service Level Agreements(SLA) on how quickly things must be responded to, those need to be reviewed due to the volume of time you are not working on the emails. The organization cannot have its cake and eat it too. Either the emails are a lower priority and thus can be delayed and still meet agreements or the phone callers need to be better staffed.

You might also look at if there is a way to send the email responses that do have SLAs and are likely to be escalated to some other group of people to handle when you get pulled for the phones. If you have to answer the phones, there is no reason why management shouldn't be handling the emails to external people (internal ones can usually wait if they are aware of the priorities for your group).

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So your boss has stated that taking calls has priority over your regular job, and you disagree.

In that case you need to explain why your regular job should be a higher priority in a way that will convince your boss. They have the power to set business priorities and therefore your priorities.

To my mind an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but if you can't convince your boss of that then you will always be stuck in a position of having to help with the calls as necessary.

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