It’s fine for a bored worker to ask for more work or offer to help others. And it’s reasonable to speak out about not having enough to do — provided that it doesn’t come across as a complaint.
Q: My daughter is a recent college graduate. She has landed a job that pays a salary and benefits, so all seems great. However, it is a new position, and so far she has very few duties. Not only is she bored, but having no work may result in having no achievements to show future employers.
She has tried finding and making more work, as well as helping the more established employees. But there really appears to be not enough work for everyone.
She has spoken out on this. What else can she do?
A: Judging from the mail I get from the overworked, this problem may make some readers jealous. But not having enough to do has its own tribulations.
Most workers want to feel that they are doing something useful; it’s a waste of their time and brains if they aren’t. Particularly for a newcomer to the working world, it’s important to have something to show for your time on any given job. And it’s always a good idea to be seen as making a useful contribution.
Your daughter has taken the right steps in being proactive about this quandary. But she might want to retrace them with a slightly different mind-set.
It’s fine to ask for more work or offer to help others. And it’s reasonable to speak out about not having enough to do – provided that it doesn’t come across as a complaint. Depending on the situation, telling a manager, “You need to give me more to do,” may amount to creating work for the manager. The key is to be as specific as possible. Suggest a concrete project or duty to take on — and make the request something that’s easier for the manager to agree to than deny.
Given the apparent flexibility in this situation, there may well be room for ideas that could genuinely benefit the enterprise and — even better — be shaped by the kinds of achievements and learning experiences that your daughter would find most useful and compelling. If possible, she should present a few options.
This may sound similar to what she’s tried before, but sometimes it’s all in the packaging. Don’t leave the manager with the sense that there’s a problem. Instead, present the ideas as solutions that will make the manager’s work life easier.
As a hedge, it may also be wise for your daughter to spend part of her free time seeking better opportunities elsewhere. If a potential employer questions why she’d be leaving a first job after a short stint, “I want to work harder” is a pretty good answer.
Submit questions to Rob Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.