Nurturing is a natural trait for many women. We don’t like to see others suffering, struggling or wasting time. So, to help out, we often “help” or even do the work ourselves. Whether it’s at work, or home, or in the community, beware of this helpful trait. It can hold you back from being promoted, getting a raise and it will keep others from moving into leadership roles.
Many years ago, I worked in the social services field. And in that job, I never saw those files as piles of paper. I viewed each file as a family waiting for help. I often stayed late and took work home with me. When my colleagues would let their work pile up, I just took over and did their work for them.
Eventually I became burned out and resented my co-workers. I was doing their work and mine, even though they never asked for my help. My original intention was to be “nice” and “help out”, but it backfired, and I wound up being frustrated and resentful.
If I could go back in time and change things at my old job, I would do things very differently. Instead of taking over, I might offer suggestions. Perhaps create a resource list that could be shared with the entire agency.
I could have made it a point to leave on time and enjoy the vacation time that I earned. That would have modeled strong boundaries and a sensible but professional work ethic.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are doing the work for others and solving other people’s problems, whether it is at work or at home, this CAN be fixed. First, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that your intentions were good. Being aware is the most important part of changing.
From now own, resist the urge to do things for others, especially when they can and should be doing things themselves. Use responses like, “What have you tried?” and “What do you think will work?”. You’ll have to let go of your perfectionist tendencies and remember that it took you a while before you got really good at doing these tasks yourself. Give others the chance to learn, and you never know, they may even discover solutions that are better and faster than yours.
Remember, others are watching you. No matter what your title, you are an influencer. Be an excellent role model of professionalism, integrity, encouragement AND boundaries.
Read more articles by Beth Caldwell at Beth Caldwell, Leadership Consultant contributor archive page.