How to Tell Your Boss You are Overworked

Estimated reading time: 8 mins

It seems like most people have too much on their plate these days. Everyone is complaining about feeling overworked. How can you tell your boss that you simply have too much to do? Nobody wants to come across as uncommitted, lazy or not a team player. How can you manage to protect your image while at the same time let your pain be heard? In this blog, I will try to help you tell your boss when you’ve had enough.


What Experts Say about Being Overworked

It doesn’t matter how busy you are, it usually is hard to talk to your boss about the heavy workload and being overworked. You may worry that saying something like this might end up in you losing the job. There’s always this feeling that while you cant manage the work someone else can, making you look dispensable. There is also the natural tendency to think you are not doing enough. This feeling that you should be able to somehow handle this on your own is very damaging. You tend to overcommit just because you are ambitious and you want to impress your boss. However, being unable to do this overload of work or sending something of poor quality will only make matters worse, sending the signal that you are not consistent or reliable. This is why you really need to tell your boss when you are overworked.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Feeling overworked and overwhelmed should not signify that you’re a subpar employee. It is important to not judge yourself harshly. Most companies these days have a habit of trying to do more work with fewer resources. You’re not lazy if you’re usually a good performer who occasionally asks for a reprieve or turns down a request. In fact, it increases your credibility to say no from time to time. This is because bosses want their employees to be confident enough to speak up if they are feeling stressed. While it might look like an uneasy thing to do, it really is the only responsible thing to do.

Seek Support and Counselling

If you’re too busy, it can be helpful to get the perspective of an outsider on your workload. This third party will help you get grounded. You could ask a close friend or trusted colleague to have a look at your workload and give an honest opinion about whether it is a bit too much for one person. Depending on your comfort level with your boss, you could also ask him or her to counsel you.  You could be positive on your approach, saying something like: “It is taking me 5 hours each week to prepare this report. Do you think this is in line with what you would expect? Do you have any suggestions on how I could streamline the process?”

Offer Solutions to Being Overworked

It is important for you to have the right mindset when having a candid conversation with your line manager. Always start by stating the organisation’s shared objective, ensuring you’re both on the same page. Next, state what’s getting in the way of you accomplishing the goals. Try to be as specific as possible, saying something like: “This assignment is consuming a lot of my time, leaving little time for my day-to-day work.” Next, offer some solution, addressing the issue. The point is that you should never go to your boss with a problem unless you have a solution to it. Ultimately, you need to identify projects that can be delayed, deleted, diminished or delegated.

Set Your Priorities when Overworked

It really is excruciating to have your boss give you another assignment while your hands are already full. Oftentimes, bosses assign tasks without really knowing how long it will take for individual task to be completed. What you can do is start by explaining what you’re currently working on an then asking them politely to confirm the most critical tasks. This will help you prioritize your tasks and also give the boss a hint of you getting overworked. Whatever happens, the best approach is to never agree to any timelines if you’re unsure if you can deliver on time.

Offer to Help

Even at times when you have too much work to do, it’s both professional and considerate to provide help wherever and whenever you can. You need to send out the message that even though you are overworked and cannot take on a specific task, you will take out the time to help the person who is now working on it. You could be part of the brainstorming sessions or keep yourself available for any support. Offering a small lifeline, even if you don’t have too much time available to you, will cement your identity as a responsible worker who is committed to the organisation’s success.

Always Be Honest

We all go through tumultuous personal events that have to take precedence over everything else. If you are experiencing something like this – a close relation diagnosed with a serious illness or your daughter having a hard time at school – it’s best to be upfront and honest about it. You can tell your boss how ignoring this issue will create enormous stress for you and your family and how it will also affect your performance at work. Have a straightforward tone and keep your demeanour as grounded as possible. Make it time-bound and situational. Say that this doesn’t happen very often but the next few weeks are crucial for you.

Stay Close to Your Colleagues when Overworked

It might not give you the desired results by simply telling your boss that you are overworked. A wise thing would be to give your teammates a ‘heads up’ if your boss is unwilling to make any changes. They might be able to cut you some slack, even if your boss isn’t. And even if they are unable to help, at least they have been warned. Moreover, it might be a sign that you need to look for a new job if your boss is continually insensitive to how busy s/he’s keeping you.

Rules to Always Remember


  • Seek advice and help from your co-worker or manager on ways you could decrease the amount of time that is spent on certain assignments.
  • Be upfront on asking if trade-offs can be made or priorities can be shifted.
  • Always show willingness to pitch in by inquiring if there are any ways for you to help your colleagues who are working on your projects.


  • Ever be hard on yourself. Asking for a reprieve or turning down a request on occasion doesn’t mean you’re lazy.
  • Say yes to any additional work on the spot. Always buy yourself some time by telling your boss that you will get back to him after evaluating your workload.
  • Keep your co-workers in the dark when your boss isn’t listening to you. Give them a heads up when you’re in trouble so that it doesn’t erode their trust.

Working Efficiently

Working efficiently is the key to your success at workplace. A well-structured approach will often save you the trouble of going to your boss, complaining about the excessive workload. Here’s how you can add efficiency into your work routine:

  1. Create To-Do List.At the beginning of each week, you should write all tasks on a sheet of paper so that nothing is missed out. Rank tasks according to importance or urgency.
  2. Review Workload Regularly.Is there a task that always ends up being ignored? If there is something that you’re avoiding, it might help to look for somebody else who can do it.
  3. Set Realistic Deadlines.Estimate the time each task will take to complete and never be overoptimistic. Be honest with yourself and what you can achieve in a day or a week so that nothing overwhelms you.
  4. Give Time for Interruptions.If there is a task that is time-bound, just focus on completing it unless there is an urgent query. This will allow you to remain focused.
  5. Structure the Workload.Avoid doing a job in bits. Instead, deal with them one at a time and try to finish each task before you start another. Having this approach will let your mind be clear.
  6. Don’t Let Your Inbox Dictate You.If you get over 50 emails each day, this means you are interrupted 50 times a day. It is best not to check your inbox every single time you receive a message.
  7. Refrain from Multitasking.Taking on too many jobs simultaneously will mean that most of them will not get the attention they require. You can think of multitasking as taking care of more than one task during the day, not at the same time.
  8. Log All of Your Workload.It will help to keep a log of your working week in case you are not sure how long things take, how many times you get interrupted or how often your focus shifts. This will support you in planning your week in the future. 

These tips and tricks are sure to help you in telling your boss when you have too much work and also when to assess if the work overload is only because of the mismanagement on your part. Do also check our blog post on How to Ask Your Boss for Emergency Time Off.

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