Helpfulness Can Hurt Your Job

After school one day, Reese was sharing with me what they’d been doing all week in her seventh grade, Home Economics class. She was first of all, thrilled, because they were finally learning how to sew – something she knew mom could never teach her. I mean, other than knowing how to sew a button by hand, I don’t remember anything about sewing from my seventh grade Home Ec class.

Reese also shared that in her class sitting next to her was a student with special needs, and that student had a full-time aide there with her. But neither the student nor the aide knew how to sew, so they had been asking Reese lots of questions and for support.

Now, as a parent, my heart was absolutely melting as I listened to Reese share with me how supportive she was. And without even thinking, she was jumping in and helping. However, the teacher hadn’t asked Reese to do this. So her due date for her project was the same as everyone else’s, and Reese continued on sharing that she was now behind on her project, and she was needing to use some of her tutorial or nutrition time to work on her project.

You, as an adult in your corporate job, may be facing the same situation as a seventh grader in Home Ec; that you are using your time that’s needed for your projects to support others. You may be that person that is pulled in for meetings for additional collaboration.

And whether it’s because you have institutional knowledge, you are the subject matter expert, or you’re just really darn nice and you like to help people; whatever the reason, there’s some caution behind this. Because absolutely, I am in full alignment that we should be supporting and helping other people. It is part of our humanity. It is what we should be doing as good people.

However, there has to be an evaluation; there has to be a sense that we’re not contributing so much that we’re at the risk of our own burnout.

I constantly share with you about this epidemic of burnout. And this is one of the contributing factors, is if you find yourself where you are giving up your time, your energy to support other people, and now it’s causing you to spend more hours after work or more stress, more anxiety, this is all contributing to your burnout. This is not a healthy scenario.

Research has found that it’s the same 3% to 5% of people who get asked to collaborate and support; the same people get asked over and over and over again.

So unless this is built into your performance measurement, unless this is built into your professional development plan – if it’s not, if it’s just at your own good nature, your own sense of humanity, there has to be some boundaries, some parameters that are set so that you don’t cross the line into burnout. This is where I want you to sit up and pay attention.

It’s not about, “I just want to help, I want to be a good person, I love supporting others, I feel so good when I give advice, I feel so good when I can collaborate.” Great. But at what point does that feel good turn into burnout for you with your own projects, your own responsibilities, your own professional growth and development?

So I encourage you to really take a hard look and assess if you are that 3 to 5% of employees who are constantly being pinged, a meeting added to your calendar where you’re the collaborator, make sure you are evaluating whether or not you are supporting your own health, your own well-being, and that you’re not giving up so much that it’s causing you to burn out.

Take a look today, ask those questions, assess, set boundaries, ask for help, whatever you need to do to make sure you strike a balance between humanity and your own health and well-being.

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