When your team complains to you about being overworked and underpaid, you may be tempted to blow it off, chalking it up as routine griping. That would be a mistake.
While employees do complain to each other without a second thought, they don’t do it to the boss unless they have a serious concern. You need to act.
These situations are tough because it seems that things are completely out of your control.
By identifying potential responses, you will discover that you have more choices than you may think. This will help you feel better about whatever choice you make because it is you that made it.
There are at least three viable strategies you could pursue in this situation.
Go to bat for your team
Assuming you are not the source of the problem, you can go to your boss and make a case for easing up a bit or providing more resources to deal with the demands.
Yes, challenging your boss can be scary and potentially career limiting or even ending. But if you don’t speak up for your team, who else is going to do it?
If senior management isn’t told that their demands are unreasonable, they might not realize the effect they are having on frontline workers. Operating on the no news is good news principle, they will never have a reason to change course.
Be sure to make a business case for any recommendations you do offer.
Accept the situation and deal with it
The pressure on productivity will likely continue to increase. Often this pressure does create poor working conditions.
As a leader it is your job to inspire your team to rise to the challenge, in spite of the circumstances. You can engage them in the problem solving process. You can help them eliminate work that is not necessary. You can help them focus on that which is essential.
The situation is what it is. Do the best you can, and ask the people in your group to do the same.
Move on to a better environment
There are some organizations in which senior management sets unreasonable expectations. It is even possible they do so intentionally.
Maybe the strategy is to squeeze as much as they can out employees until they quit. Then find a replacement and repeat the process. The turnover is huge, but it could be that someone with a calculator determined it made financial sense when compared to the alternatives.
If that is your situation, things are not going to get better. You aren’t going to change your boss’s mind. You also aren’t going to feel good going along with the strategy.
In this case, it’s time for you to move on. And if you want to help your employees, take a few of your best with you.