Thursday, 6 January 2011

I've Only Got One Pair Of Hands

So how's the first week back at work going? I'll admit I have found it REALLY tough, I could have done with returning for a partial week, I really wanted the week to end yesterday and I'm already feeling the stress bubble up which I am trying my best to quell, but it's not easy to keep it together and stay calm in the face of idiocy, especially as I haven't slept well the past couple of nights. I'm still off the booze though - 7 days now - and even though I REALLY REALLY wanted a glass of wine last night I resisted. Yeah me!!

This week at work I've spent a good amount of my time getting to grips with all the items on my team's to do list and created a big Gantt chart in MS project so that I can track what's due, what's coming up and the amount of overlap we have on projects. It seemed like a good idea to put it together on Monday, the idea being that I will carry it around in my notebook and then when I'm in meetings with account people and they try to cajole my team into doing more work I can whip it out and show them how busy we are and force them to re-prioritize other projects. Essentially it's a tool to get us out of being overworked since I find that more often than not account teams will come to my team with a new, urgent project with an intensive deadline when the team are already busy with other deliverables. Fine, I understand, but what grates on me is that the account teams who are pushing these urgent projects on us don't seem to realize that if they drop a new urgent project on us then the deadlines for other tasks have to shift. Seems only fair right? Unfortunately the account teams don't seem to grasp the fact that there is a finite amount of resources available, so I receive these quizzical looks as to why we can't deliver the original projects within the previously agreed timeframe.

Um...expect us to work 24 hours a day much?

I especially love it when they say, "oh but don't you have someone else available to continue with XYZ while so-and-so works on the urgent project?" To which I always want to respond "yes meet my imaginary employee John. John spends his day twiddling his thumbs with his feet propped up on his desk while receiving the exact same salary as everyone else, but without being subject to the usual agency rules of having to bill 80%+ of his hours on projects, because John's sole purpose in life is to hang around waiting to work on the projects that you seem incapable of prioritizing."

Of course I don't say anything of the sort I just smile through gritted teeth and inform them that it's not possible to hand the work to someone else, because everyone is busy so then they'll waste half an hour trying to coerce me into delivering everything they want at which point it's an exercise in suppressing my irritation with them for wasting my time with such nonsense, I mean hellooooo, it's called account management, so call me frivolous for making the suggestion, but perhaps you could, MANAGE the account and push back on the client's unrealistic expectations instead of just parroting their requests back to me. Seriously the client may as well just call my team directly for. Grrrrr!!!!

For the record my entire team is over 120% billable, not sufficiently over to allow me to hire another person, unless there's another team that also needs half a person, but enough to make them extremely busy, especially when you factor in all the non-billable stuff that's expected of us like admin, training etc. When you think about the fact that we bill based on a 40hour work week 120% booked means a minimum 48-hours on client stuff then factor in having to do timesheets, attending status meetings, etc and you're looking at 50-60-hours minimum pretty normal for New York I suppose, but not so good for work/life balance.

It didn't take long for 2011 to stress me out did it? Do I sound like a right old moaning Minnie? I suppose I should be thankful for my job, but the expectation of the working week is already getting to me. I need to find someway to keep this in check. For now I am just thankful I've been able to resist managing my stress with wine in so far.


Kitty said...

oh boy!!!

You and my coworker, who is just back from her 2-week vacation in Italy, sound one in the same. It is so tough. Gah.

People are so damned cranky now too, and in terms of people, I mean clients. Outlandish expectations. There are times when I politely state my contrary view to theirs - not so intense as your John soliloquy, but very close. Tonight I used the phrase 'in my professional opinion' in response to a 10pm email from a client.

Mark is in your field and the whole client-interface is his annoyance, too. The problem is that the big clients have lots of power, ad revenue and airtime. The stakes are high and account people do not like to say 'no'.

I think to be a good account person is tough. It means not being a yes-man/woman. It takes confidence and experience.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Ah Kitty, why are you even responding to 10pm emails to clients? Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies. I used to check my Blackberry all the time, but since I came back from my Peru trip I've stopped doing that. I feel that I work long enough, so I should not feel guilty for enjoying my free time.

I empathize with Mark's situation. In terms of my role the way the clients behave hasn't changed that much to be honest, but I do see a difference in some account people. I work on multiple clients and I would say that half my account teams are great, they set reasonable expectations with clients and for the most part don't commit to my team working on something without checking in with me first, however there are a couple of account people who, lovely as they are, just say yes to whatever the client wants from my team and then when I push back because of X, Y and Z they don't like it so much, but my view is they made a mistake of over promising, so they have to deal with it. I think these people need training in how to manage their clients. I'm not sure what training exists for them already, but maybe it's lacking some components.

Spandrel Studios said...

Ooh, Fish, sorry to hear the work stress has set in already. But having your master project plan at the ready must be a good tool during those confrontations with account management... Having it in black and white, objective as can be, can sometimes get one's point across. Sadly, working those high hours is more cost-effective for the company, but burnout inhibits good work...

Here's to a year with more sanity all around!

Amel said...

Oh dear...sounds stressful indeed. Ugh...don't you just hate it when they expect you to do this and that when you know your team just can't handle it anymore.

I don't know what to write here 'coz I'm speechless...but hopefully everything works out as best as it can and you can still achieve work/life balance (if not now, sooner than later).

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Spandrel, happy new year to you. Let's hope 2011 is a good one all around.

Hi Amel, thanks for the support. To be honest I don't think the stress at work will change, so all I can do is change the way I react to it, although that won't happen over night.