At work, each one of us wants to be perceived as ‘helpful’ and ‘kind’. There’s nothing wrong with helping a colleague but don’t become other’s task finisher.
There are people who love others doing their work either because they are in a position of authority or they are aware that you are a soft target and won’t decline any ‘can you do it for me’ requests.
If you identify as being a person who accommodates other’s work in your schedule, then here’s how you can get out of the loop. For starters, learn to tally the frequency of such requests and behavior of these shrewd colleagues. Once you’ve identified them, start doing the following.
Don’t take the bait
You may have a colleague come to you crying about being swamped with work, but don’t be fooled. Learn to identify the nature of their request. Are they asking you to ‘finish’ it for them or do they want your guidance? Can you redirect them to someone who can offer them meaningful advice? The whole point is to let them know that you do empathize but can’t always be thought of as a shock absorber.
Don’t feel guilty and take over
Even when you refuse the bait, your coworker may try to make you feel guilty by saying, “But, you’re the only person who knows the way around my current situation” or “I wouldn’t get through without you” or “It will just take an hour” etc. The only way to tell them off (without sounding rude) is by informing them about your own work commitments. Say, “I have a busy work schedule but if things clear out then I would love to guide them.” This should be a signal for them to back off and not impose their will on you.
Don’t make it a habit
There will be times when you might have to salvage a situation or your team but it’s always better to not make it a habit. Your colleagues will never learn to overcome their shortcomings because they think you will cover up for them. Would you like to be in this situation? Stuck forever? I hope not because others will begin to shirk away from their responsibilities. Bottom line: let them learn to clear their mess and work their way out of difficult situations.
Don’t be afraid to say NO
Say this two-letter word to make others understand that you aren’t available at their beck and call. You may think it will be devastating for your reputation but it is not. Say, “I understand it’s crucial but I wouldn’t be able to do it this time.” Stay away from words like “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think so” because then you leave the doors open for speculation and they will once again knock your doors for help. In fact, your ‘no’ should sound like a refusal and not a weak apology for letting someone down.
Don’t give in to the temptation
Thanks to your nature and beliefs, you may want to volunteer and take on unnecessary workload but how about being reasonable? Why push for more when it will result in burnout and affect your overall productivity and contribution? Just because you are dependable, know the technology or project inside-out doesn’t mean you have to be the one to step-up every single time! As it is, the more work on your shoulder, the easier it is for your colleagues to send more work your way.
Over to you now. Would you follow these five steps? Or, do you know someone who could use these tips?