Problem Solve My Work Problem
July 16, 2019 1:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I (a non-profit middle manager) fairly assign additional work to members of my team?

I'm a middle manager at a small non-profit (total staff of about 20 people). Once a year, we have a project that requires a handful of people (about 6 - 8) to take on "extra" hours of work. The project is 6 weeks long and requires around 6 hours per week of additional work, for a total of around 40 hours over the six weeks. In past years, we've assigned this project to staff who have lighter workloads or to newer staff who haven't yet reached full capacity in their workload. Most staff have been able to fit the additional 5-6 hours per week into their 40-hour workweek. In some instances, we can approve overtime (with pay) for people who go over 40 hours (however this can turn into a slippery slope based on different staff members' time management skills - or lack thereof). However, we don't have a great system for figuring this out, and we increasingly have staff who are at full capacity, making this a real extra stretch for some of them.
My question is in two parts:
1) What's the most fair and efficient process for us to decide which staff members should be assigned this task going forward (right now we are considering a lottery system with exclusions for anyone who already done this task twice)?
2) What are our best options for compensating staff who do take on this extra work? What would you want in terms of compensation? (So far, we've thought of trying to take other tasks off of people's plates and offering overtime for people who really can't fit everything into 40 hours).
posted by sleepingwithcats to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Am I missing something? If you have hourly employees, and you expect them to work more than 40 hours a week, you should be paying them overtime regardless of whether the FLSA applies or not. Otherwise, you're stealing from them, morally if not legally.
posted by praemunire at 1:36 PM on July 16, 2019 [9 favorites]

ask for volunteers? that seems to be most fair. if you don't get the 6 people you need, then draw straws (or whatever) among the people who have the least amount of work to do. and, if they work 41 hours, you better pay them overtime for that extra hour.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:43 PM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

For me, if I can't have money, I want comp time.
posted by lyssabee at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Some clarifications:
Employees are salaried and expected to work 40 hours a week. Most employees could realistically do their job in 32-36 hours. They are all covered by FLSA and we are required to pay them overtime (I should have been clearer about this in the original question; also I am not trying to steal labor from my staff - I asked this question because I need help figuring out how to advocate for the best way to protect/compensate staff fairly for the extra work). That being said, the main challenge lies in the fact that different staff have different time management skills. While employee A may be able to do all their normal job functions plus this extra project in 40 hours, employee B will struggle to even perform their normal job functions in 40 hours, and employee C will see this as an opportunity to make some overtime pay by inflating their hours. We don't have a great way to track people's hours outside of relying on what they report to us (there's a decent amount of independence in the job, it's not like people clock in and out at a job site every day), so I'm realizing that might be a good starting point. We also have tried asking for volunteers and gotten nowhere (people don't want to volunteer to do extra work unless there's an incentive).
posted by sleepingwithcats at 1:58 PM on July 16, 2019

Best answer: I get that you are working for a non-profit, but the thing is -- these people are being paid for doing a job. They are not volunteers. While I understand your desire to be fair, I'm not sure that should be a factor in assigning the work. In your situation (and I am a senior manager, but climbed the ladder to get here and have been a middle manager), I would assign the work to those staff who I trust to complete it without working extra hours. If they succeed, I would be sure at review time to include time management and being able to take on extra work as favorable components of their review (and hopefully reward them with a raise or a small bonus or something). For those who cannot be trusted to do the work without working extra hours, I would at review time include time management and being unavailable for extra work (due to said time management challenges) as unfavorable components of their review.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:09 PM on July 16, 2019 [26 favorites]

You need to trust that your staff aren't inflating their hours, and if you think they're being dishonest then maybe they should find a job that's a better fit.

But if the big issue here is overtime pay, maybe you can just let people know none will be approved (assuming that's legal -- I assume you can legally say "you must stop working at the 40-hour mark") but that you will work with people to take other things off their project list (or delay them) so that they can do this.
posted by slidell at 2:13 PM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

it sounds to me like you might want more formalized perf (employee performance reviews), and to explicitly tell people this project counts towards it. if you decided who got raises, promotions, and preferred changes in responsibilities a couple times a month based on your records of what they'd done in the previous perf cycle(s), employees who push hard and pick up extra projects could be confident they'd be rewarded, while those who struggle or inflate hours have incentive to not do that.

idk tho I have very little experience with entities that aren't huge tech corporations where project assignment jockeying and politicking is a thing more than once a year.
posted by bagel at 2:13 PM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is it not possible to break up the work so that everyone gets a piece? My initial hot take is everyone gets a piece of the extra work and they are expected to complete it during their normal 40 hours since it’s spread out more it should take less time per person.
posted by MadMadam at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2019

An annual project needs 6-8 people to take on 6 hours per week. Let's call it 6 people for 6 hours a week for six weeks, to make it easy. That's an hour extra per person per week for less than two months. I wouldn't call this "extra", I would call this part of their job. Just like around the holidays/in the summer/during a slow time people have less work, sometimes people have more work. But an hour extra a week per person doesn't seem like an undue amount of work for anyone to absorb.

For example, I'm a librarian. Right now we're in the middle of summer reading, which lasts for 7 weeks. We have a bunch of teen volunteers, and I'm in charge of their schedule and keeping them on task. So for the next 7 weeks, that's one of my main priorities. When summer reading is over, I'll move my attention to something else. It's extra in the sense that I don't do it all the time, but I don't get any extra time to do it.

Everything you've outlined in your update applies to any job, everywhere. There are always people who work harder or smarter, always people looking for ways to game the system, and people who need help.
posted by lyssabee at 4:29 PM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

We don't have a great way to track people's hours outside of relying on what they report to us

Then you probably know that a good number of people you choose to view as "able to do all their normal job functions plus this extra project in 40 hours" are lying and under-reporting their hours because they know what is expected of them, both by the pressures of this sort of employment situation and by the unequal expectations of them as individuals that they are trying to live up to. If you aren't tracking hours, you can't take people's word for their good time management skills if you aren't believing certain other people's word for their overtime requirements. people absolutely do lie in both directions and more often deflate hours to look "good" than inflate to make a little extra money.

The system by which nobody has to do this work more than twice is a good one. Making everyone do it once before anybody does it twice would be better.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:16 PM on July 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Here to second queenofbithynia's comment - as a veteran of a similar time-tracking scheme where there's no real oversight but everyone is expected to log ~40 hours per week, there's a bit of a perverse incentive to under-report hours so you look like a time management wizard. If I was having a slow day for whatever reason, I'd often end up working an extra few hours that I didn't log so I could have the output of a normal day.

So it's pretty likely that at least some of the people who you're thinking of as having excellent time management skills aren't volunteering for this extra work because they know that they'll need to work extra hours to get it done, and they feel pressure not to record those hours in order to keep their reputations as excellent time managers.

Since this is a recurring task, you could consider a formal rotation so everyone has to take a turn without singling out particular people for extra work.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 11:45 AM on July 17, 2019

I'm with OrangeDisk - you don't need a "fair system". You choose the people likely to do a good job and/or the people who are ready for it as a +1 learning experience. If those people are too busy, you mitigate it by getting some temporary help for them on their normal tasks.

Also with OrangeDisk in that, if there are people you automatically think "oh hell no", then think about why, and if that should be talked about in one-on-one performance discussions. (Don't wait until official performance eval time! Those should not contain any surprises! I know nobody ever takes this advice)
posted by ctmf at 7:14 PM on July 17, 2019

« Older So everybody hurt everybody   |   iOS Game Suggestions Wanted Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.