A traditional promotion tends to happen in one of a couple of different ways:

  • A workplace posts a job opening that lists a job title and its associated responsibilities, the skills needed, the pay and so forth; people apply and someone is awarded the job – and then celebrates the new opportunity while turning over the old responsibilities to whomever fills his or her previous position.
  • Someone does such outstanding work that he or she is awarded a promotion without even needing to apply for a new position – and then he or she celebrates the new opportunity while turning over the old responsibilities to whomever fills his or her previous position.

In today’s times, though, a different kind of promotion – labeled the “invisible” type by Fortune[1] – is often the norm: after an employee survives a bout of layoffs, responsibilities handled by those downsized are reassigned to him or her. This can lead to a significantly increased workload and added workplace stress, with affected employees often afraid to speak up about the situation, for fear of losing their own jobs.

How can this situation be handled in a manageable way, perhaps even in a way that allows that employee to benefit from the challenging set of circumstances?

Tips and Strategies

U.S. News says that an overburdened employee should not assume that his or her manager realizes how overworked he or she now is. From the perspective of the overloaded employee, it may seem impossible that this is true – but, it sometimes is. A manager may figure that, if nobody is speaking up, then all must be fine.[2]

If you’re in this situation, step one should be to professionally share your concerns with your manager. In some cases, that’s all it will take – although also coming with solutions for how the work can be handled is even more helpful.

If, however, sharing your challenges with your manager does not bring about necessary levels of relief, take a good hard look at what you’re doing. Is everything absolutely necessary for the safe and effective running of the practice? Or can some items fall off of your to-do list without harm? The Boston Globe published the following advice that, although intended for corporate situations, is also applicable to veterinary practices:

“Remember when your company was 20 percent larger than it now is? If you took on extra tasks outside your specific job function — from mentoring the intern to organizing the softball league to proofreading everybody’s memos — you may have to try to scale back . . . women are particularly prone to volunteering for (or failing to refuse) amorphous extra tasks.”[3]

Here are more suggestions from Fortune and U.S. News on how to handle this challenging situation (Elmer, 2011; Green, 2013):

  • Objectively document how you’re bringing in or saving the company (or practice) money
  • Share revenue-increasing ideas
  • Show the positive impact of your consistently finding unusual value for the practice (or practice)
  • Be strategic in your timing of discussions, watching for indications of increased budgets before approaching your manager
  • Pick a time when your manager isn’t rushed and ask for a time to talk specifically about your workload
  • When you do approach your manager, include a staffing analysis that supports your plan for redistributed work responsibilities; suggest options and structures that ensure that higher priorities are completed
  • If even more responsibilities are being delegated to you, professionally make it clear what other tasks will need to be deprioritized or what timelines won’t be met because of these new responsibilities
  • Ask for training and/or coaching for parts of your new – probably unwritten – job description where you don’t yet feel qualified

These suggestions “should work with a reasonable manager – and even with a somewhat reasonable manager. If you have a manager who listens to everything here and tells you to just find a way to get everything done, then you’re working for a bad manager (or alternately, you aren’t working as quickly as others in the position, in which case a good manager might push back). If that’s the case, you’ll need to be realistic about your circumstances and decide how you want to respond” (Green, 2013).

Future Benefits

In many practices, the financial situation will eventually turn itself around. When that happens, the skills that you’ve gained through the difficult post-layoff situation and your ability to meet the challenges presented should put you in good stead for a promotion and/or raise when that become feasible. If economic stability at the practice happens, though, and you’re still not appropriately relieved of workload and/or adequately rewarded – or if the stability doesn’t return at all – then it’s not unreasonable to ultimately look for another position in another practice that can use your range of skills and experience, and reward them appropriately.


[1] Elmer, Vickie. The Invisible Promotion. Fortune: February 7, 2011, pp. 31-32.

[2] Green, Alison. How to Handle Being Overloaded and Overworked. U.S. News: November 27, 2013. Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2013/11/27/how-to-handle-being-overloaded-and-overworked

[3] Lobron, Alison. Overworked? Here’s How to Deal. Boston Globe: March 7, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2010/03/07/overworked_heres_how_to_deal/?page=2

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