Team lead protests extra work

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Dear Joan:
Your recent article of the week, Too Many Initiatives—Things to Stop Doing Right Now, is so very timely.  I was just thinking I had shot myself in the foot and did career damage by stating that people in my position (team leads) who have the same workload as other people, PLUS extra team lead duties, should have a little consideration given that we do have extra.  The argument I got back was, well you are in the position and more is expected out of you. You are a higher pay grade and paid more for what you do, and this is what it is.
 
But your statement of why are you giving your "best" people more to do than others and how long do you expect them to continue to be your best, tells me that at least I'm not crazy.  Management at work may think I'm crazy.  More challenging work makes sense for more experienced and capable people, but to give team leads the same workload and then PLUS extra…
 
Answer:
You may not have shot yourself in the foot but you may need to get out the band aids and ointment. 
The quote you are referring to is this:
Stop punishing your good employees with more to do than anyone else. Yes, I know: busy people get things done…blah, blah, blah. But if you are killing your best people with all the heavy lifting, excuse me, but how long will they be your “best” people? Start looking to your B players to step it up. 
While I don’t know your specific situation, your manager is right in one respect, you are in a higher pay grade and with it comes extra responsibilities. What I was referring to are leaders who dump more work on same-pay-grade teammates who are go-getters. Over time, the B players do less and less and the go-getters get more and more, because the leader over-depends on them to do it well, without a lot of coaching or supervision. Unfortunately, this is not a good long-term strategy. The best people will only tolerate that as long as they see the light at the end of the tunnel…a promotion, a transfer, more money… 
Team leads are in a tricky role, so your concerns may be well-founded. They typically are the best technical people, who are supposed to do work themselves, and at the same time, direct and help their teammates. However, they don’t have any real authority, so they don’t have the position power to provide any rewards or consequences. Directing peers is no small task. Usually, the only real “clout” a team lead has is to participate in the rest of the team’s performance reviews, but only as someone who provides input to the manager. 
It is very easy for a manager to take unfair advantage of a team lead, and usually it’s by overloading them with complex technical work. Where the line gets crossed is when a manager expects the same—or higher-- level of production out of a team lead. He or she should not be expected to grind out the same amount of technical work when there are significant leader obligations—attendances at meetings, scheduling, customer contact, training all take time. 
That may be the issue you are protesting, because you say, “More challenging work makes sense for more experienced and capable people, but to give team leads the same workload and then PLUS extra…” I interpret that to mean you are the experienced and capable person, who has the same or more workload, but then also has leadership responsibilities, as well.
 
The discussion with your manager should be about percentage of time you spend on technical work versus leadership work, not whether or not it is fair. For example, if you find you don’t have enough time in the work week to do both the advanced projects, and leading and teaching others, ask for guidance about how you should be dividing your time. This is where others can step up to help you shoulder the load.
 
It all depends upon what your career goals are. If you are interested in a management role, the team lead job positions you to move up. If you prefer the technical work, you may want to pursue a more high level technical position, with little or no people responsibilities.
 
If other team leads are experiencing the same things you are, it may make some sense to split the highly technical work away from the team lead position. Progressive companies recognize that burdening their best technical people with unwanted people responsibilities is a recipe for both dissatisfied employees and weakened technical results.
 
No matter which way you choose to go, focus your discussions with your manager on solving the priorities issue, not on the unfairness of the team lead position.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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