Two years ago Harvard Business Review published an article on ‘collaborative overload.’ The question the researchers asked was “Are your best employees suffering from collaborative overload?” The answer to which was a reverberating YES.
They also found out that the top-performing employees who excelled when it comes to being collaborative had the ‘lowest engagement and career satisfaction scores.’ This collaborative burnout ‘ultimately results in their either leaving their organizations (taking valuable knowledge and network resources with them) or staying and spreading their growing apathy to their colleagues.’
This brings us to ask that if these are the outcomes of a collaborative workspace then what good is it anyway?
But, let’s not jump to conclusions. We do need a collaborative environment as two heads are always better than one. Moreover, it inspires creativity, creates a supportive work environment and everyone grows and moves forward together as a team. However, that’s only one side of the coin. The other side is what is most often overlooked and comes with a cost: employee burnout caused by collaboration. This has been discussed in recent research. Researchers reveal that other than technology, demanding bosses and inefficient coworkers, collaborative burnout is caused by an individual’s own mindsets and habits.’
The question now is to you, the employee. Do you feel burnt out because you think you go out of your way to help your coworkers? Do you think it is YOUR responsibility to lead the herd? Do you want to earn those brownie points for doing more than what you are given? Or, is saying ‘no’ not in your dictionary?
Whatever your answer may be, it’s important that you don’t allow the collaborative demands of your work or your nature wear you out. You must look out for signs that threaten your peace of mind. So, here are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself in order to reclaim your time and space at work without stopping being collaborative.
#1 Am I being collaborative because I want to live up to my reputation as being knowledgeable and helpful?
If your sense of self-worth is driven by how others perceive you, then that’s the root of your feeling burnt out. It’s excellent that your coworkers think highly of you but always assess how much extra work you can accommodate.
#2 Am I the right person?
Ask this question time and again. Think hard because the answer is hiding somewhere within you. Should you even be involved in a meeting or a project? Are you procrastinating? Wouldn’t you be able to save time by stepping out? Do you think you can pass off a workshop invite and give it to someone else who can benefit from it more than you would?
#3 Am I being a control freak?
Sometimes you unnecessarily participate in projects because you think others may not do it right. Or, you feel others could do with your guidance. Although you may be doing it in good spirits, what is the cost? Isn’t something more important waiting for you? Shouldn’t you be dealing with other pressing concerns than think that you are wanted everywhere?
#4 Are you being taken advantage of?
While the first three questions are to do with your beliefs, this one is about others who pull you in without your knowledge. In fact, these requests can come from your immediate reporting manager or inefficient, lazy coworkers who ‘seek your advice’ every now and then. All you need to do is assess the frequency of such requests and how much time you actually waste doing miscellaneous work. You might find it difficult to say no, but once you establish boundaries, you will only feel better.
Over to you now. Ever experienced collaborative burn out? How did you deal with it? Any specific strategy which helped you recover and go back to work?