No, this is not a recognised syndrome, but it is one that I see time and time again, and unfortunately, it always ends badly.

So, what do I mean by the Keen Beginner Syndrome? Let me give you an example. When we begin a shiny new job, or we get a promotion, we can start by going for it with guns blazing, giving everything we have in an attempt to impress (or to justify to yourself that you can handle this new role). We can’t keep this up, however, so slowly, we start to run out of steam. Not only are we not going in all guns blazing anymore, but we also often start to underperform.

Here Is My Question
Are you being given too much work by your boss? And if so, have you in some way contributed to being given the extra workload? I know this is a bit of a tricky and provocative question – especially now that lots of workplace cultures are adopting a ‘more for less’ approach – but even considering
this, have you?

The Keen Beginner
I’ll give you a specific example of what I mean. I often hear from lots of people that when they took on a new job, or when they were given a promotion, they were so eager to please and be the best they could be that they took on extra work, and even stayed up very late in their own time in order to finish that work, never uttering a word to anyone, and surviving almost solely on the praise from their bosses.

Surviving On Praise
Because they never said anything about the extra hours they were having to put into finishing the work, they were, of course, perceived as not only coping, but excelling at their job. By not saying anything, what they have taught their boss is that they are coping wonderfully well, and that they’d be able to cope with even more work. The workload then keeps increasing, while the praise starts to decrease as bosses get used to their employee taking everything on.

Onto The Overwhelm And Resentment
Eventually, the employee ends up being completely overwhelmed with the amount of work, as well as harbouring a seething resentment for their boss (for giving them the extra work) and also for their colleagues (for not doing as much as they are). And still they say nothing, blaming everyone else for being overworked and underappreciated. It really isn’t fair not to say anything to your boss, and you can’t expect them to read your mind – this is never going to happen.

It Always Ends In One Of Three Ways
Eventually, one of three things will happen: they leave (still never uttering that the workload was too much), they end up feeling so overwhelmed that they take time off to recover and upon their return to work start to talk about the workload, or they never say a word, becoming so overwhelmed that they start to underperform and eventually get fired. Do any of these consequences sound familiar to you?

What Stops Us From Saying Something?
The thing that usually stops people from saying something is fear of the other person’s reaction, and fear of being seen as not coping or failing. Then, there is also the need to please their boss, to the point of becoming passive. If having the conversation with your boss means a workload you can manage – and if it allows you to remain on at least respectable terms with your boss and colleagues – it’s worth it.

30 Minutes Of Anxiety Is Better Than Months Of It
A rather uncomfortable 30 minute conversation around your workload is much easier to live with than months or years of feeling anxious at work, not to mention bringing that anxiety home with you, and taking your frustrations out on everyone around you.

Start As You Mean To Go On – It’s As Simple As That
If you are given far too much work and do not have the resources to cope with the workload – without it eating disproportionally into your own personal time – then please say something right at the beginning. Don’t wait. And yes, it is as simple as that: have the uncomfortable conversation. There are many ways to have that conversation, and there are lots of books and blogs out there on the subject of having difficult conversations if you’re worried about it. Whatever you do, have that conversation. Sooner rather than later.

The Magic Of “I’ve Noticed That.”
I have found a really easy way to start an uncomfortable conversation, and that is to use the phrase “I’ve noticed that.” right at the beginning. For example, “I’ve noticed that I have three projects to manage that need to be completed by the end of the month. It won’t be possible to finish all three
because I don’t have enough time, unless I take the work home every evening. Could we work together to find a way of making sure the projects are completed?” This is a simple and non-confrontational way to get your view across.

So, the next time you start a new job or get a promotion, if the workload starts to become too much, think about what you are teaching those around you by not saying anything. Have that conversation. You’ll be much happier for it.