• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

How do you tell your boss there’s simply no time for more work?

Get PDF file

by on
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: “I’m completely maxed out in my job and don’t have a minute to spare for additional tasks—but try explaining that to my rather demanding manager, who tends to see even the shortest break as productive time lost. What’s the best way to diplomatically tell her I absolutely can’t take on any more work?” — Clare, Medical Office Receptionist

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Abe October 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I tend to shift the focus from my own schedule and blame the workday itself for failing to get my boss’s work done if she gives me too much, as in “The length of my workday isn’t quite letting me fit anything more in.” It lets her know that I’d be more than willing to help her out, but constrained as I am by being an hourly employee, we’re simply running into overtime restrictions.


Tris October 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm

It’s definitely important to point out the possibilities for getting something done when you can’t. Never just say, “I can’t get this done for you”; follow it with “Let’s figure out if there’s a way to get it done.”


Mary October 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm

First, you are not married to your job or your boss. You need down time to share with your family, friends, and to take care of yourself. Time away will re-energize you and you will then be more productive while your are there. It is really important that you take your breaks and your lunches each day.

It is best if you take the time to make a list of everything you are doing and sit down with her and ask her to help you prioritize your list. It may even help if you write down approximately how much time you dedicate to each task. Explain that you are getting burned out. Would she rather you quit or help you lighten your load. She may then reassign some tasks to others.

Doing this will help you gain credibility with her and others. You will be considered more assertive and less like a victim.

I wish you the very best


Karen October 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

Two letters that form a word so powerful it can only be released with conviction: NO. After years of suffering and saying yes all the time, I have learned this valuable word and it has lifted so much stress off my shoulders.


Barbara October 26, 2012 at 9:44 am

There does come a point when there is just too much work. I work in an office that had 2.5 admins. and I’m the only on left after “downsizing.” There is still the same volume of work.

I can only do so much. I keep a list of what I need to do and the deadline. When additional work comes to me, of course, I ask when it is needed. Then I show the list and ask, “What do you want me to put aside in order to do this new assignment?”

Often, I find it isn’t as important as it seemed to be. Or, it is something that can wait “until I have time.” I do keep folks up-do-date on when I’ll have time.

Other times, I am told that I don’t need to do or a deadline for other work is changed.

I keeps me sane and let’s others know what I have on my “to do” list.

Yes, there does come a time when there is just too much to do. It may be you need to look for another position while you are treading water at your current job.

I hope some of these ideas help you cope with your dilemma.


Mary October 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I agree with Ashley. When I feel like I can’t do another thing, I take some time to reprioitize my projects; to see if there are some that could be completed sooner than lather. If not, and your manager brings something else to you, explain to her calmly, in detail, the projects you already are working on and ask which of the other projects could you delegate so you can work on the new one she has just given you. Sometimes managers are so busy trying to get their work done, they forget what projects they have passed on and to whom. A little communication goes a long way.


Jasmine October 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm

My recommendation would be to look at it with a question mark vs a period (learned from my mentor and executive, Joan Burge). If I am looking at it with a period – I am saying “that’s it, end of story, I have no time – period.” Yet, if I look at it with a question mark I let myself think about it creatively. “How can I continue to help and keep my business partner happy?” Perhaps there are things on your plate that aren’t suited best to you, your skills, your pay grade, etc. Can you offload some of this to another person, dept, etc – maybe it is something that just doesn’t need to be done anymore. These answers aren’t going to come up instantaneously but it’s worth putting some deep thought into. You may find something you do can be shared or offloaded to another person freeing up some of your time so that you can grow in your role while taking on a new task or project.

Wishing you all the best!


Ashley October 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Come straight out and tell your boss that the amount of work you currently have is demanding all your time and you’re concerned that the pressure of more tasks may affect your quality of work on other projects.

However, Instead of telling her to take a hike with her projects after youv’e explained this to her, ask about other options to help get the job done. Example #1: Ask if any work you have or coming your may might be delegated to another individual. Example #2: Ask questions about each project’s deadline to help you prioritize your projects. Some tasks may not need your full attention right this minute and will allow you to complete more urgent issues.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: