Q. I work for a government contractor in Colorado. I have been happy with my job until recently, when I was asked to take on a special assignment as director of a project team. I was told this was a prestigious, high-visibility job and the move would be good for my career.

I took the job and soon discovered that I had stepped into a disaster.

My predecessor was six months behind in work and left few records of what he had done. The manager who recruited me was reassigned soon after I started. His boss is too high up, uninvolved with my project and interested only on having schedules met. Deadlines are important; a large government bonus depends on meeting them.

I have tried approaching my boss with carefully compiled facts, figures and schedules demonstrating my need for help, but all he does is breze through them, telling me "no" and sending me back to work.

I am working long hours and am plagued by migraine headashes. My coworkers feel sorry for me and help out where they can, as a favor, but they have their own jobs to do.

This corporation has a history of making scapegoats out of innocent, overworked people like myself. I cannot afford to get fired: My husband is in school and I have to make the house payments.

A. Your choice is either to destroy yourself and job by continuing to suffer with the situation as it is while heading toward a failure or to mount a gutsy offensive.

Document, once more your workload and the virtual certainty that without help you'll miss your schedules.

Write a letter to your boss, including this analysis and mentioning your previous requests for help that were rejected. Ask for a formal response. Hand the letter to your boss and send a copy to the general manager of the company or division. Don't hide the fact that you have done so from your boss.

There is no doubt that escalating your plea for help will not earn you brownie points with your boss.

However, if you rescue the project and the bonus that hangs in the balance, I think he eventually will get over his irritation at you for going over his head.

Andrew Grove is president of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., author of the books "High Output Management" and "One-on-One with Andy Grove," and a frequent lecturer on management. Please send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif., 95190.