ASK POLLY AKA KIM: HOW CAN I ESCAPE WORKPLACE DOORMAT-DOM?

On to another ASK POLLY aka ASK KIM POSSIBLE DANG (I am trying to run with this without being sued by Disney).

Hello, Polly!

I have a question to ask, and I’m hoping you can shed some insight into my problem as it’s getting progressively worse.

I’m a graphic designer for a large-ish corporation and as the company grows and as my department is becoming more and more known to the organization, I’ve been noticing that the conditions of my projects are becoming increasingly tough: extremely short turnarounds, huge projects, etc. and being the only designer, I am really beginning to feel it. Plus, I’m paid hourly, and most of the time, I have to leave after eight hours or I’m chased away by Payroll and HR. I talked to my supervisor about this, and she simply told me that it’s bad to say “no” to anybody and she will not turn down a project that any other department requests of me.

Recently, however, I was asked to take over a project that is working far above and outside my job duties (I’m here to “create GRAPHICS for print and multimedia purposes”). This project would entail creating a whole new company intranet portal in which each of 10+ departments would get their own homepage, a company landing page, automated forms, custom designs for each, and so on, in an allotment of two weeks. This is way beyond anything I know how to do (I could certainly learn but it would take months as opposed to two weeks on top of recurring projects that need released monthly). I, again, talked to my manager about this, and her response was, “I promised the execs that we would have this done at the end of March, so once these three projects are done, you will have a couple weeks to complete it, and there’s really nothing I can do now.”

I’m feeling a bit stuck/taken advantage of, since I’m being paid to be a graphic designer, not a web developer (a difference of $20-$30k per year) As of recently, my boss has a new boss, and as the threat of losing power and our job duties shifting seems to be kicking everything into overdrive, she is now pressuring me even more and throwing more projects onto my plate during my alleged two-week allotment, and I remain the only designer here.

I would really appreciate your advice on the matter! I’ve been making attempts to plead my case, as you’ve read, but they seem to be falling upon deaf ears and I’m not so sure what my next steps should be.

Thanks so much!

Overworked And Under-appreciated

Hi OWAUA,

If you are the only graphic design employee under your boss who suddenly is stricken by a new boss of her own, that means you have leverage.  A lot of it.  A boss under a boss with one key employee is not in a lot of positions to over work their said key employee.

Currently I am working with two website design and development companies and as a client, I know how the workload can fluctuate and intensify based on demands of either large overhauls or many minute changes.  Whether your immediate boss can admit to this or not, you two are in this boat together being championed and judged by the ring leader who is your boss’s boss.  A team needs to be formed with cooperative, balanced work in order to get the job done together or in this case it seems as if most of the work is being off-loaded to you in order to have a scapegoat if the boat ever sinks.

You can ask your immediate boss to work with you and be realistic or as the only graphic designer employee, there is no advantage to being pushed to the brink of your workload where your performance will go from extreme excellence to a level of mediocrity both of you will be uncomfortable with and this will ultimately reflect poorly on your boss since she is responsible for you.

If your immediate boss continues to be unreasonable and turn a blind eye to your situation, there is a way to prevent yourself from going downhill.

That is to OUTSOURCE.

If your quality will diminish anyway due to the intensity of your workload and it will be impossible to deliver the same excellence – might as well get help finishing your projects.

Developers in the states are FOR SURE paid more than developers in other countries.  Since you are going from graphic designer into web development mode – hire a web development team.  Some work for less than $10/hour, packaged.  Some work for about the same, some are more expensive.

I am going to assume you are paid quite adequately enough to afford at least a mid-tier team.

I highly recommend seeking out a developer on odesk.com or elance.com.  99designs can only get you so far.  You need a dedicated team to help you accomplish your ever multiplying tasks.  Create a Skype because that is their first means of communication and hire a team after a day of interviews.  It is important you do not lag with this.  They are FAST, they are people who have 5+, 10+ years of hard coding experience, they are available to you to help you get through this!

I am talking from experience here.  Do it, get it done, it works, don’t lag.

Use SaaS companies such as redbooth.com or github.com to organize their tasks and have them be accountable to deadlines.  Whatever your boss wants you to do can be quickly relayed to them.

Would you trust them to keep your information proprietary?

I trust them with everything.  Just like your client trusts your company with everything.  Because you need everything – all types of developer access – in order to create a website for them.  And your developers will need everything in order for them to create the website for you.

Even if it is not about web development, even if it is simply design tweaks, it is better if you have help than to go about it alone GIVEN THAT YOUR CONFRONTATION WITH YOUR BOSS FAILS.

This is just practical advice coming from someone who cannot work with a boss.  Who is doing quite okay directing web development teams and who knows what works when it comes to this particular situation in terms of outsourcing.

You have so much leverage that I don’t really believe you need to resort to getting hired help.  But in the face of ignorance, of office politics, of being screwed over by someone who doesn’t know how to delegate effectively and failing at her job as a boss in keeping her employee (you) happy – this is the only way you won’t go down in flames.  The only way where your boss’s plan of using you as potential scapegoat will fail.

I can feel you have it in you –  enough reasons for the confrontation, enough ammo for your demands that you will ask for what you want and get it.  Because from your inner soul you feel how strongly you deserve a break.  How this house of cards will come tumbling down if something doesn’t change.  Sometimes it does take a little hyping up to ask for what’s right.  But once you ask for it, you will realize how much they are willing to give – then you can continue to ask for more.

Good luck!


When I Stretch Myself Too Thin, This Is What Ends Up Happening:

I don't give a fuck about my socks matching anymore.

I don’t give a fuck about my socks matching anymore.  Not that they ever consistently matched anyway.  In either texture or brand or color.  Mis-matching can be a three way.  But not that kind of three way.

It almost looks like I have the case of a phantom foot.

Stretching thin means thinking I can take on everything, dipping my feet (LOOK ABOVE) into everything and fooling myself into believing I have enough energy to take it ALL on.

My personal trainer Casey, whom I hired to make me become healthier, unfortunately does not have a cell phone.  He calls me every other morning from the fitness gym in a  soft friendly voice, “Are you awake yet?  You still coming at 7AM?” to which I groggily answer back “Yessss” with half a bit of drool dangling from the corner of my chapped mouth.

I am in better shape than ever but that fooled me into believing I can take on running the automobile dismantling business  AND AND…

Coordinating a website developing team from a third world country.

Embarking on creating a possible SaaS company with a fellow who I happened to message on Youtube and who happened to be local enough to meet up with me and agree on trying this shit out.

Having a boyfriend who goes rock climbing four days out of the week.  Learning how to cook better.

Taking auto classes at a nearby college (I got an A+ on my first test… which proves… I care way too much when grades don’t even matter anymore at this point.)

Meeting up with a blogging group on Saturdays to spurn myself to blog more.

Hiking/Rock climbing/Running/ETCETCETC. ETC.

Then I realize….

my socks are no longer matching.

I have to admit to myself I haven’t been showering daily. I know, gross.

I wake up at 6AM going FUCK IT ALL!!!!

I wake up at 3AM and read tons and tons of random wiki-trivia about movies only to fall back to sleep again till 6AM.

I am in the middle of conversations with 6 different people at the office while I am hold on the phone, skyping with someone, on gchat with others, on my cell, remotely controlling two other computers, talking to a person in front of my face, and jotting down notes onto a calendar behind my back in which I would have to swivel my chair and WHY DON’T I PUT THE CALENDAR IN FRONT OF ME INSTEAD? WHY DID I PIN IT TO THE WALL SO I WOULD HAVE TO DO A SPIN EVERYTIME I NEED TO REMIND MYSELF OF SOMETHING?

And there’s EPA compliance, and hoses I need to buy, and Schedule C forms, and we ran out of plastic bags, and three different people needing important answers, and 5 customers want to return something, and Fedex broke a package to which I would have to resolve with a claim, and a computer needs to be rebooted and completely reconfigured….and… I find myself waking up curled into a fetal position each morning dreading the long LONG day ahead.

Stumbling back home at night, my roommate makes some quesadillas which normally I would not eat but being stretched too thin I forget I am lactose intolerant and I gobble up some with glee only to regret it later while I am in the bathroom –

STARING AT MY MISMATCHED SOCKS.

So this post was pointless.  It is realizing sometimes stretching yourself so damn thin could mean wanting to re-evaluate everything.  I end up promising everyone everything, fulfilling what they need with LENGTHY DELAYS, and just taking care of shit while I am flying on my tippy toes.

I envy those who can keep everything altogether in a neat and tidy pink bow of life.

Obviously I have my priorities all straightened out.


Ask Polly: How can I stop feeling like a failure?

Dear Polly,

I am in my late twenties and I am currently working almost seven days a week to make ends meet. I barely have a couple hundred dollars in my savings account…much of my paycheck goes towards paying for bills.  I do not shop much nor spend too frivolously thus I live within my means.  I feel that my life now revolves around finding ways to make more money so I don’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.  My family currently lives in a small apartment and there’s not much space for anything.  I crave for a space that is mine, a place for a desk and a flower – a place I can work.  I want a garden for my grandmother so she won’t be bored.  She loves growing plants, flowers, and vegetables.  I don’t think I am really good at anything or have any skill that’s valuable to be able to increase my income to a lot more than what it is.  I guess time, hard work, and patience will be best for me.  I’m not too happy with myself because I don’t make much and I can’t take care of my family the way I want to.  Or I guess, I’m not happy because I feel that I haven’t accomplished anything.  Any ideas?

Thanks,

Too Poor Too Worried

 

Dear TPTW,

Everyone starts at the bottom.  Everyone.  And the fact that you aren’t making that much means you probably are at some entry-level job.  It takes usually a couple of years doing entry level before you are promoted to a decent salary given our economy.  Sure, you didn’t land that hot high salary paying job directly out of college and maybe you have stumbled upon many mediocre jobs before landing this one which by the way is still mediocre because you are again – starting over.   However, any job is better than no job.  Any movement in a direction where you are at least paying your bills, where your car payments and rent are being paid off is a positive direction.

 

Try sticking this job out for at least 2 years while improving instead of jumping from entry level job to entry level job.  It takes a certain tongue biting, a certain level of drudgery you’d have to endure before you can even demand for more.  You bid your time, you make friends with the boss, you make friends with coworkers, and you work smart enough to be noticed… but while you wait you don’t have to twiddle your thumb in agony over your low pay, you wait in GREAT ANTICIPATION AND EXCITEMENT for that day where you can ask for a higher salary because you fucking deserve it.

And let me tell you, that day will come sooner than you think.  Negotiating a higher salary is very common… Employees all around the world engage in this very act CONSTANTLY.  Once they ask for something better and they don’t get it, they at least have a couple of other options lined up.  So stop focusing on the drudgery and the low pay and the minutia of daily life.  Start collecting and DOCUMENTING your progress.  A good salary negotiation is going to be backed up by facts, by a long list of email testimonials of how great you are at your job, a power point presentation of how your contributions changed your company by X percentage in terms of sales, customer service recognition.  Arm your portfolio with as many complimentary amos as you can and spend your hours collecting and collecting instead of moping.  No compliment through email is too small.  No sales number is insignificant.  Not as long as there is progress.

I would highly recommend investing in salary negotiation techniques because they are worth it.  Ramit Sethi is known partially for his salary negotiation online product.  It is a couple of bucks for a chance to have the confidence to negotiate a several thousand dollar increase in your salary.  It is worth it.  I tried it myself and increased my bonus amount by 300%.  I know, ridiculous.  But you never know how much your employer is willing to give unless you ask for it.  Meanwhile, never stop applying to other jobs AS YOU IMPROVE, because you never know there might be a great job right around the corner with a higher salary you can use as leverage.  If another company is willing to pay you more, your company will no doubt look at you with a different perspective.  If you are suddenly in greater demand, that is all the more reason for them to give you what you want.

Let’s focus on your living situation.  Having your own desk with a FLOWER is not hard to do in any situation as long as there is a roof over your head.  Cell mates have their own desks.  At work, you have your own desk.  For your grandmother who loves growing vegetables, there are many indoor hanging plants she can do without having to add extra real estate to your current situation.  She can do a hanging tomato garden.  They even sell some kits at the $.99 only store!  She can totally start doing urban indoor gardening.

Sometimes, people in their twenties have the luxury to fool around, make mistakes, live life recklessly.  Life has serendipitously landed you a role of the caretaker for your family.  For you to take on that role is already so self sacrificing, you do not need to beat yourself up with further guilt for not providing them the mansion or lifestyle you believe they deserve.  I am pretty sure as long as you are paying all the bills, they have it pretty nice that someone else is taking care of them when they cannot do that for themselves.  Already there should be a deep sense of gratefulness and if you are taken for granted then you should not beat yourself up more for it.  Kind reminders of your generosity should at least be doled out once in a while so they can thank their lucky stars they are not homeless and starving.

You are right.  Time, patience, and hard work will definitely be the best for you.  It is in how you are biding your time that is causing mental agony.  Bide your time by filling it up with your portfolio of minor to major accomplishments.  You will see how they all add up.  Bide your time by relishing in the simple joys life affords you because you are going somewhere and doing something instead of sitting around all day waiting for someone else to take care of you (I am adding this just in case but I know you already have your own life-relishing activities).  It is important not to dismiss how important you are.  Without you, your family will not have the care they are receiving.  Without you, your company wouldn’t be benefiting so much from your efforts.  It is important also to not dismiss your accomplishments no matter how minor.

The accompanying praise and the relics given to those who reach their milestones which are declared on Facebook or in real life… their milestones for the most part resulted from long roads traveled.  Their milestones were accompanied by years of hard work, years riddled with tiny moments where they feel they are not worth it because they haven’t reached their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow yet.

The accomplishments you achieve, however minor, should be documented and not so easily dismissed so that when you step back to get an emotional outcast of your current situation – it is a feeling of gathered accomplishments enough for the overall picture to be a good one.  A progressing one.  There is something inside of you that is burning with truth – that you are worth and you deserve a lot more than your current salary and standard of living.  Keep that truth burning because it is so so so much better than resigning to thinking your current situation is the way it always will be.  Your salary is the best you can get.  Your life is as good as it gets when it isn’t so good.  The fact that despite what you tell me about how down you are about your current situation, you still maintain the “this can’t be it, it can get better, I am worth a lot more than this” attitude.  So deep down you know your worth.  KEEP  PUSHING that feeling towards the surface so taking a step back to view yourself won’t be a painful experience of, “where am I? I haven’t gone anywhere,” to “I know my value and I am not standing still.  Life is moving forward.  I am moving forward.  I am not where I want to be now but there is nothing stopping me from getting there.  THESE ARE JUST MY HUMBLE MOTHERFUCKING BEGINNINGS, BITCHES!  ONWARDS HO!”

Polly

Simply because I am so DAMN HAPPY all the time and I get many “Dear Polly” type questions from friends, I figured I’ll answer one publicly.  If it proves to be a fun activity I will keep it up.  If not, oh well, onto other things.

Feel free to contact me and send me your “ASK POLLY” questions.  I will keep them anonymous and answer them!


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