In a previous job, our manager sent the following email:
I hope you are having a great Monday!
I have a project that we need to start immediately, and I would like to ask for volunteers. The project is CRM-focused, which means we need to verify customer information, such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and mailing addresses. We need two (2) volunteers, and I think it will take 20 hours of work per person.
If I don’t get the volunteers by COB today, I will make the assignments on my own.
Nice to be back in the office!
Of course, you are a team player, and you want to make your manager happy. You also understand that this project is important to the department. However, before becoming Volunteer #1, you must determine if this is the right decision for you.
#1: Do you have the bandwidth to take on more work?
Avoid being the eager beaver who accepts work just to be nice, or to gain the favor of your manager. Can you allocate the 20 hours to take on this project? If you do, how will it affect your other day-to-day activities? Are you currently assigned to other projects?
Consider the challenge here: when you accept more work, you are accountable for getting it done. If you have too much on your plate, you could fall short on both your daily work and the additional responsibilities. That result may negatively affect you during your performance appraisal. Therefore, if you decide to volunteer for this assignment, make sure you have the bandwidth to deliver quality work.
#2: How will your manager perceive the fact that you failed to volunteer?
After reading the email, you ponder what Steve thinks of those who fail to accept the challenge. In reality, you are concerned about you, and you definitely don’t want the perception that you are a slacker.
What should you do?
My recommendation is for you to take a proactive approach. I will write your email to Steve:
The CRM project sounds great. I would like to help out as much as possible. I know you are aware of my current workload, and appreciate your advice.
If you allow me an extra week to submit my Training & Development project, I can make the time to work in the CRM initiative. I may not need the week, but I wanted to run it by you.
What a busy Monday! I look forward to hearing from you.
You are likely the only person who presented an alternative. While some employees provided excuses, you provided a solution. It’s obvious what works best, right?
#3: Do you think your manager will pick you if you ignore the request to volunteer?
The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) work might be in your domain, which means that you will be selected even if you do not volunteer. If you feel that is the case, it’s probably best that you volunteer. Given that you have the required skills set, you can get the work done right and on time. You also have the opportunity to display your leadership skills by helping the other team member learn the process. Even more important, the manager will ask you to make a presentation when the project is completed, which means that your visibility within the organization will increase. Go for it!
You should avoid overcommitting. Know what you can’t do, and know when to put on the brakes. You understand your workload and capabilities better than anyone. However, you should also understand the importance of accepting responsibility. One well-crafted email can set you apart from those who are merely riding the waves.