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Overwhelmed at work, please help

Dear Coach Joan,

I should be delighted that my manager picked me to lead a major new project, but I am stressed out and feel like there are too many moving parts.

I just don’t have my arms around the project. I did put my hat in the ring for this opportunity, but now that I have it, I am scared and feeling like I am overwhelmed with the responsibility and sinking. Ugh.

Please help.


Dear Tom,

First of all, congratulations on being selected for a position of increased responsibility. Clearly your manager saw qualities in you that gave the impression you were qualified to do the work. And, the fact that you volunteered for more responsibilities  shows that you are ambitious and eager to advance in your career.

But now that you have the challenge,  you are feeling overwhelmed. This is not uncommon. Like many workers, though you are good at your job, you felt the desire to do more and advance. But what does that really mean? It means you are leaving your comfort zone. We are typically in our comfort zone when we are fully capable of doing  about 85-100% of our work with ease. The downside of being so qualified is complacency and boredom.

Please sit down and do some self talk now. Tell yourself you are now in learning curve mode. You are asked to stretch and you need to learn new skills, tasks and or strategies to be successful. You need to ask yourself how you can find the resources and ways to close the gap between what you currently know and what you need to know. To do this you need to define the skills involved with your gap.

The way to define those missing skills is to talk with your manager. Ask for a 1:1 and in advance, tell your manager the situation and try to be as specific as possible about the areas that are giving your trouble. For instance, you might have to work with a large number of people, some who are in different locations and have different levels of understanding and perspectives on your project. Write out that situation and specifically ask how to coordinate all of the communications, ask who are the key people to meet with first, how to contact them, what materials to show, how to present the project plan, etc. Your company might even offer training classes where you can learn some of the needed skills. Or your manager might even step in to directly assist in the project and demonstrate some of the necessary skills.

Tom, this is actually an exciting time, too. You know the old expression: No pain, no gain.

This is a learning  and growing time for you, and I also suggest that you document the skills you are learning and the impact and results of your project. Then, make sure to put that information on your resume and in your Linkedin profile.  Additionally, as the project continues and you do well, ask your manager if your demonstration of successfully managing this project can result in a promotion, new title, bonus, salary increase, etc. The more skills you demonstrate and the more you show your increased impact to your organization, the more you can leverage your capabilities and advance in your career.

Onward in your career development and growth.


Coach Joan

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