As a company grows its headcount, the ratio between the number of internal service provides and internal service recipients starts to move in the wrong direction. It's one hell of a balancing act for the senior executives and few companies succeed at keeping the right ratios in check.
It's inevitable that at some point or another the company's analysts will become overloaded and under pressure as they try and keep everyone they serve happy.
In this post I'm going to address this challenge and provide you, the analyst, with a number of tools to make you life easier.
Adopt the right mindset
Dealing with the stresses that come with being part of a fast growing company is mostly a mental game.
I was fortunate that when I faced this challenge that I had more than one mentor I could lean on for advice. My mentors helped me understand that the best way to deal with the stress was to a) keep things in proportion, and b) accept the reality of the situation.
Keep things in proportion
The world isn't going to end tomorrow if you are a day late in delivering the dashboard the head of marketing requested.
It's important to keep things in proportion and not over think or over analyze the current reality you find yourself in.
The more in control you can be, and the less pressure you put on yourself, the better you will perform. The better you perform, the less stressed you'll feel. It becomes a flywheel.
Accept the reality of the situation
This piece of advice will be controversial to some so let me clarify a few things first before I dive in.
I want to be crystal clear on something. If you are in an organization where there is complete chaos and company is stagnant and decaying then you should jump ship. You want to be strong, do your part, and stay positive but there is a limit and you don't want to be the last rat left on the sinking ship.
Now that I've got that out of the way let's assume you find yourself in a company which is experiencing a lot of growing pains. The company has doubled or tripled its headcount over the last six months and you've got a backlog stretching around the building.
In such a situation inexperienced analysts can lose their cool, burn out and either leave the company, or get fired. I don't want you to go through that.
The best way to handle this situation is to accept the reality of the situation and do a bit of mental manipulation on yourself. Instead of telling yourself the following:
- "This company doesn't care about me."
- "I can't keep up."
- "I'm constantly letting people down."
Tell yourself the following story instead:
"I'm really fortunate to be in a company which is doing so well. I'm going to use this opportunity to step up and become an example to my peers. If I can get through this period then I'll be a lot stronger as an analyst. Everyone is stressed right now and we all need each other right now."
You see, you can flip the script and tell yourself a different story in order to stay on track.
Be a bit more selfish and set clear boundaries
Burnout is a real thing and even if you adopt the right mindset, you should make sure you take care of yourself.
Below are some powerful ways to reduce stress and stay sharp during the work week.
Leave the office at a set time each day
You need to break the habit of staying at the office too late. If you're like me and a workaholic then it's easy for you to stay glued to that computer until dinner time or beyond. Don't do it.
Remind yourself that the workload is infinite and that more work will be there waiting for you tomorrow.
Pick a time which makes sense and when the clock reaches that point then close the laptop and leave the office. You want this process to become a routine and you should make it clear to everyone that you're unavailable from that time on.
Now I understand that for certain roles and at certain times you may need to jump on a call, or tackle an emergency. That's fine but break your habit of sitting in the office beyond a reasonable hour.
If you work remotely then the same idea applies. Pick a time and when that time arrives, close the laptop and focus on other things. It helps having a home office or coffee shop where you work so you can physically disconnect your work and non-work activities.
Delete phone apps and turn off notifications
It's easy to stay "plugged in" 24/7. Slack, Asana and most other task management tools have mobile apps and email notification options.
There really is no reason to be so connected to work that you can get bombarded with messages at any hour of the day.
Set clear boundaries and set up your environment so you can disconnect entirely from work when that time of the day arrives.
Build more of a life outside of work
You want to have at least one activity waiting for you outside of work which gets you excited.
If all you have is your job then you'll spend all your time working and this will lead to burnout.
Going to the gym and writing are two activities which over the years have helped keep me more balanced and energized.
Communicate, communicate and communicate
So by this stage you've adopted a different mindset and set up your environment to help reduce stress. You've also taken up jiu-jitsu and salsa dancing and feeling a lot more balanced. So what's next?
Well, accepting a tough reality doesn't mean you shouldn't try and make it easier for yourself. The solution is communication.
You need to assess your situation and identify issues which can and should be addressed.
A great example of this is an inefficient process which is slowing everyone down. This is an issue which can be addressed and not simply a byproduct of hyper growth.
A good manager will focus on identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies and then work hard to solve them. If your manage is failing in this area then help him out by pointing out certain inefficiencies. Even better yet, point them out and offer suggestions on how to improve them.
Communicate with your consumers
During this time your consumers will be feeling the pressure and since you're not able to keep everyone happy, they will be out for blood.
The best way to reduce tension and help your consumers adopt a similar mindset to yours is through communication. Help them understand the situation and that being upset with you is a waste of energy since your hands are tied. Explain that you are serving X individuals and this means everyone needs to be patient.
You must use your manager as protection (and he should position himself as protector). It should be clear to all the managers that you serve that resources are limited and you work according to prioritization set by your manager. Ideally you have a good process in place where everyone can see these prioritizes and the "roadmap". The more you can share and make available, the easier your life will be.
If no system exists then share this post with your manager so he can get some ideas on how to make your life easier.
Three strikes and you're out
If you've already implemented all the ideas I've listed above and still find yourself unhappy, overloaded and miserable then it might be time to jump ship.
Leaving a high growth company is tough, especially if you've been at your company for years, have responsibilities you don't want to give up, and are close to your colleagues.
I get it, I was in that position. It took me almost a year to make up my mind and finally tell my manager that I was done.
If you're in such a situation and not sure what to do then I suggest asking yourself the following questions:
- Have I been patient enough? - In other words, have I raised my concerns and given the company enough time to address them?
- Have I really accepted the reality of the situation or just in a bad place right now?
- Am I working hard enough to recharge, and disconnect from my work?
- Have I put all my eggs in one basket (as in my life evolves around work)?
- Have I stopped growing? - Even if the situation is far from optimal, the current environment may offer a unique opportunity to grow in your career which might be difficult to find somewhere else.
If you're at the end of your rope then I recommend giving it one more push and to really think about what you want and how things would need to change in order for you to be happy. Write those things down and then schedule a meeting with your direct manager. In that meeting communicate your list and be honest with how you feel. I don't like to use the word ultimatum but you're essentially giving the company an ultimatum to change or you're gone.
If you're an analytics team manager and struggling to scale your team then check out my post, BI Competency Status. It's a great framework for helping you make your company more data driven.
Length of the e-book: 16 pages (2899 words)