CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I work in the PR department of a government agency. I like my job, but my workload is extremely heavy. I've discussed this with my bosses, but to no avail. More work just keeps getting dumped on my desk. It is extremely frustrating when I see others at a higher level than me with less work and responsibility, but making a higher salary. I mean, I can barely keep my head above water.

Q: I work in the PR department of a government agency. I like my job, but my workload is extremely heavy. I've discussed this with my bosses, but to no avail. More work just keeps getting dumped on my desk. It is extremely frustrating when I see others at a higher level than me with less work and responsibility, but making a higher salary. I mean, I can barely keep my head above water.

I like my job, but I'm getting tired of the inequality and I'm getting burnt out. I look and carry myself in a professional manner and, most importantly, I am good at what I do. Should I see this treatment as a compliment, or am I being taken advantage of? Should I update the old resume and look for employment elsewhere?

Ms. L, St. Louis

A: You should be honored that you are trusted with a lot of responsibility, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a compliment. You are obviously a trusted employee, though it seems many of those who "dump" work on you might see you as a gullible, "yes" woman.

If you've talked it over with your bosses and let people know you're swamped (of course, I always prefer a direct approach), there is one thing you should try before breaking out the resume software - just say no.

Yes, that all-purpose word is applicable at work, too. If someone asks you to do something that you know you will only be able to do halfway, tell her that you are swamped and may not be able to get to it. To use an old cliche, sometimes actions speak louder than words.

One last alternative to packing up your desk is to ask whether there is room in the budget to hire a part-time assistant. That may show your supervisors just how overwhelmed you really are.

Q: A male publicist in our midsize agency was recently fired without explanation.

This has only happened one other time, when a senior-level executive was accused of sexual harassment several years ago. I would assume that it is the same case this time around, but I am the only other man in our department, and I know for a fact that the former AE is gay. He was a hard worker, and he had a great reputation among our clients.

The only problem that he had in the office was that sometimes he would joke with female publicists about dating and checking guys out. Needless to say, our older boss was not happy with the behavior, but none of the female employees were fired. I think that it may be a case of discrimination.

How do I approach my boss to talk about such a touchy subject? Is there anything I can do to help him get his job back?

Mr. A, Los Angeles

A: Please, please don't go rushing into things until you know the whole story, Mr. A. Again, I am a huge advocate of direct communication, honesty, and straightforwardness, but this is indeed a delicate situation. You seem to be operating on a lot of assumptions. The true tricky task may be finding out what really occurred. Before you approach your boss, it's important that you know what actually happened. You may have to accept the decision and move on.

Most importantly, if you do decide to pursue the truth, keep in mind that inappropriate handling of this sensitive subject could be the basis for your own dismissal. In short, be tactful in finding the truth, but if you can't, accept it and move on.

If your assumptions are indeed correct, then you need to be sure that your assistance is wanted. If your former co-worker is still willing to work with people who don't accept him for who he is (and in LA he may be able to find other outlets), then I recommend seeking legal help.

- Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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