Ask the everywoman Experts… I’m an overworked ‘manager’, but without a team below me, it feels like my job title is meaningless 

Ask the everywoman Experts… I’m an overworked ‘manager’, but without a team below me

Three experts address an everywomanNetwork member’s concern that the amount of work she is doing out of scope is making her ‘manager’ job title meaningless… 

My role is a managerial one, but although I have the title, I have no one working under me, so– I end up doing a lot of the ‘doing’ myselfalongside the responsibilities of my role. This has caused me to feel increasingly overworked and that my ‘manager’ job title is meaningless. Aside from how this all makes me feel right now, I am also concerned that my lack of ‘team’ and the authority that goes with being a line manager will limit my future career opportunities. I have tried to explain the situation to my line manager, but no support has materialised, and I’m left feeling that I’m just coming across as a moaner. So, beyond just stating that I’m overworked, how can I effectively demonstrate my workload and request extra resources in line with the position I’m supposed to hold?  


Sometimes we can feel that we’re not getting the recognition or the support we want for the role we are in. And in your case, that lack of support can even put question marks around your job title and whether it reflects what you’re actually doing. Let’s start with the overwork issue. Get practical. Start by really identifying what your role is in terms of activities and responsibilities—you may have to go back to your job description to help, including all the additional work that you seem to have been given or that has fallen to you. Then you will need to identify how much time is taken up in your core managerial role—and how much is taken up by the additional administrative work. This exercise will help you to make a case for the support you need and what that might be. I would recommend looking at this from the perspective of the outcomes and the deliverables that are expected of you in terms of your role and how that relates to the company’s strategic priorities. It’s far easier to make a case for more support or to delegate things if we can say, ‘these are the things that I’m doing and here are the benefits to the team and organisation’. What will be really important here in moving the dial is the tone you use and how it’s framed.  

Now let’s look at what you’re doing and how that relates to your job title. I do think this is something that can be loaded for some of us. A job title can give us status, respect and leverage that we can pivot from. If your job title is an issue for you, is it something that you could look to negotiate as part of the conversations? Suppose, for example, you are now expected to do extra work that wasn’t originally in scope in your role; it can give you a little bit of leverage around remuneration and even a possibility to upgrade your title. In all conversations around this, you’ll need to be very specific- and ask for specific answers. Don’t be afraid to recommend options and note what your line manager recommends, asking them to be as detailed as possible around who, when and what support is coming. Then if the support or delegation of tasks doesn’t happen in the agreed timeframe, you can highlight this clearly back to them.  

Rasheed Ogunlaru is a leadership coach, founder of The Coaching Pod and Life & Business Coach partner to the British Library Business & Intellectual Property Centre. 


With my HR hat on, I was interested in the niggle you feel about being a manager but not having a team. However, if you go into a conversation with that, then from an HR perspective, it doesn’t really hold water; you can be an individual contributor at an equivalent level to another manager with a team. So, the issue then comes down to workload- rather than organisational design, and to what extent you have explored that entirely with your manager.  

It seems that you don’t feel like you’re being heard, and it’s time to build evidence for why you need additional support. A time management exercise around a framework like the Eisenhower grid, which sorts activities into urgent, non-urgent, important and non-important, can help clarify and weigh all the things you have to do. In addition, populating the grid can help you consider how you manage your own time as well, which might also help the situation.  

The longer we let situations go unresolved, the more they can affect how we feel about the job and ourselves. You might even feel as if you’re de-skilling because you’re spending so much time on admin work or being constantly pulled into firefighting. And whilst it’s valid to feel frustrated that somebody else doesn’t see it your way, the only thing you can really do is choose to let that be the ‘reality’- or- work out how you can help them better understand how you feel. It’s about using your feelings as a starting point- and then doing your best to distance yourself from those feelings momentarily- in order to step into your manager’s shoes and ask yourself: ‘What’s going on for them that they feel it’s not relevant for me to have somebody in my team? Is it that they don’t believe I’m overworked? Or that they don’t think I’m effective? Would they love to support me, but they just haven’t got the budget?’  

If you’re doing a lot of work outside the scope of your role, you could potentially argue your role is being undermined somehow, but what does that achieve? I always take a practical approach to these things, which is that how you feel about the situation is valid- but that you can use that frustration effectively by redirecting your energy into bringing about change.  

Gemma Bullivant is an independent HR consultant, offering practical HR services and executive coaching. 


Laila Datoo

Start by thinking about what part you play in this and what angle you’re coming at it from- because even if your intention is not to be negative that could be what’s coming across, and that’s not a great place to start a conversation. The only thing you can control in this situation- is the energy you’re giving to it. At this point, it’s good to check in with the basics around your energy generally, too — are you sleeping and eating properly? Have you taken time off recently? These are important. If you can regain your sense of control, it will be easier for you to approach the practical action, which is to write down everything you’re doing, what time you start and finish and when you take breaks. Do this for at least a week, if not two. Then you’ve got real data to take to your manager. This is so much more useful than just saying, ‘I’m overworked, I’m stressed’. Those things may be true, but it’s not necessarily getting you anywhere. And if you’re a manager, you don’t want a problem presented to you, you want a solution.  

Along with this reorientation of your workload, ask yourself what you are also looking for from the situation? Do you need validation and a sense of being valued? I sense that this may be needed here. The timeframe in which you have been working like this could be important factor to consider when you discuss your situation with your boss; if you feel this is a ‘forever situation’, or perhaps it’s not what you expected when you took the role, then maybe what’s really going on here is that you feel unappreciated or undermined. In any role, we want to be able to see some progression, and it may be the case that you would be happy to do the admin work now if you knew that in three months, you would be promoted- or you’ll be getting another person to help you. A conversation needs to happen with your manager about your current work, what the progression is and what they see for you in the future. But that’s a difficult conversation to have if you are in a negative mind space, so get your energy into a place of power first.  

Laila Datoo is a workplace wellbeing expert, certified coach and mindfulness trainer helping business leaders and HR professionals to support their employee’s mental health and create happy, healthy workplaces.  


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