When Helping Out is NOT a Good Thing
By Sharon Teitelbaum, MA, MCC, Sharon@stcoach.com
When is lending a helping hand NOT a good thing? When the assistance is a reflex action taken by the helper without thought to her own capacity. As a result of their knee-jerk helping behavior, “automatic helpers” are often late with their own assignments, a development that can create friction with their managers, damage their reputation, and undermine their self-confidence. They are also at risk for burnout.
Automatic helpers typically take great pride in being responsive to the needs of others. Demanding clients can be particularly challenging for an automatic helper to manage. Take Meredith, for example. When a prospective client contacted Meredith in a PR crisis she automatically dropped everything, including weekend and evening time with her son. She worked night and day to rescue this new client because she COULD. By the end of the project she was exhausted and resentful of the client because he was not sufficiently appreciative of the huge sacrifice she made for him.
Delivering a high level of customer service and aiding co-workers when they need it are very admirable traits. They are NOT the problem we are talking about here. The problem arises when the helper helps automatically without making an explicit decision about it that takes into account their availability.
So, what drives this type of behavior? Often "automatic helpers" don't realize they have a choice. They leap into action without asking themselves a few very basic questions, like:
1. Do I have the bandwidth to take on this activity? What other commitments will be negatively impacted if I assume this additional responsibility at this particular time?
2. Is it my responsibility to help in this instance? Am I the only person able to provide this assistance? Can I refer this work to someone else?
3. Is this something that I truly want to do? Or am I just feeling compelled to take this task on?
4. Does this individual want and value my assistance? Or am I imposing myself on them?
5. Can I negotiate different terms that will enable me to satisfy the client's needs without negatively impacting my other commitments?
Just because you see a problem that you have the skills to solve does not mean that you "have to" or "should" take up that task. Automatic helpers sometimes feel guilty when they don't. Because they associate feelings of guilt with wrong-doing, their desire to avoid guilt propels them to take action.
If you are an automatic helper, do not interpret guilt to mean that you have done something wrong. There is such a thing as "good guilt." Good guilt lets you know you are successfully changing a negative behavior pattern and are moving out of your comfort zone in doing so. Your goal is to distinguish between an automatic, unconscious response and a clear and intentional decision to offer your assistance.
Remember, the moment that you stop to consider whether or not you should lend a hand is a power moment. You are free to decide whether or not to offer help.
[Back to Motivating Articles]
Copyright 2008 - 2013, by Sharon Teitelbaum, all rights
Sharon Teitelbaum, www.stcoach.com, Master Certified Coach
If you are a newsletter editor or ezine publisher, you have my permission to use these articles as content for your ezine or website as long as you keep the copyright, by-lines, and contact information intact.