What to do if you feel stuck in your current job due to heavy workload, bullying and unreasonable demand?

Despite the fact that work-life balance is a common value nowadays, many people are still feeling stuck in jobs stressed them out in terms of workload and interpersonal issues.  One of my clients works in a multinational firm.  She told me that the workload in her job was unreasonably heavy.  She needs to work until 3 am every day and return to office the next morning at 7 am.  She is constantly under high level of stress as her immediate supervisor has little empathy on her burden and keeps giving her unreasonable demand in meeting the company targets.  Besides meeting his targets, this client also needs to manage her team with 7 members.  Some of these members are uncoorperative and have poor working attitude.  Apart from the heavy workload and unreasonable demand from boss, my client also faces office bullying in relation to company politics and misogyny.  Whenever she was promoted or was rewarded with a big bonus, she was teased by her male colleagues for having slept with some of the senior directors.  She was also being hinted not to get pregnant after getting married.  She has also witnessed those female colleagues who had children were being marginalized and further bullied.  However, she feels stuck at her current job as she needs to support her parents and siblings financially.  She also wants to save enough money for an early retirement so that she does not need to work in this kind of toxic environment anymore.  What can she do to face her current situation?

The situation of the above client is a bit extreme.  In fact, if we face similar situations, such as heavy workload or boss’s unreasonable demand, we need to know our limits and be assertive to say no.  When we feel overwhelmed by the heavy workload, we need to perceive the situation objectively.  We need to tell oursleves that it does not mean that we are incapable or weak.  In fact, it may be a reflection of the understaffing of the company.  We may worry that if we set boundary with our boss on workload issues, we may be judged and this could affect our career.  Indeed, if we did not voice out our limits, the less than satisfactory outcome of all the tasks given might be attributed to us for being inadequate or incompetent.  As a result, we may face the similar risk in our job.  When we try to be assertive, it is important for us to clear and direct in expressing our concern for the unreasonable amount of tasks being given.  Sometimes, we need to negotiate and compromise with our boss or other colleagues in sharing burden of the overall heavy workload of the company.  It is of paramount important for us to be calm and rational in the meeting to voice out our concern.  We need to understand that the situation in the company may not be changed within a short time period.

If we face bullying in our workplace, we may feel reluctant to tell others about it due to our fear of making things worse.  However, staying silent will only isolate us and empower the bully.  Therefore, we need to obtain some support.  If we find the human resource department helpful, it may be an option to report to the department.  Furthermore, seeking professional help from a counsellor or a clinical psychologist may also help to process the negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, fear, shame and embarassment, in relation to the bullying experience.  In fact, it is sometimes impossible to change the company culture of misogyny.  If this is the case, it is important for us to regain some sense of control to see what we could do.  For instance, my client above can choose to plan thoroughly on saving enough money for leaving the company.  Within the period of the saving plan, she still needs to stay in the current company.  She may need to build some positive relationships with other colleagues who did not bully her.  By developing alliances with some colleagues, she may feel supported.  By planning to leave the company in the future, she regains her sense of control.  This is her plan to take away the bully’s opportunity to bully her.

It is important for us to strike a balance between financial security and work-life balance.  Even though not every one is lucky enough to work in a healthy company culture valueing employee’s well-being, it is possible for us to have some control in our working environment and taking care of our well-being.

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