Generosity Burnout

A common theme and message passed down from generation to generation, is to focus on helping others, the young, the old, the less fortunate, etc. Throughout college talks, we were promised by those who have “made it” that being generous and readily sharing your time, energy, and expertise will lead to a successful career and a meaningful, happy life. It can, but it doesn’t always. The road to exhaustion is often paved with good intentions. Generous “givers” succeed in many ways that lift others up instead of cutting them down. It turns out that givers add more value to organisations than selfish “takers” do.

Givers do the majority share of connecting. They stick their necks out to advocate promising people and ideas. They share their knowledge freely and often they volunteer to do the heavy lifting. In my eyes, Givers, are the most valuable people in organisations, however, they’re also at the greatest risk of burnout. When they don’t protect themselves, their investments in others can cause them to feel overloaded and fatigued, fall behind on their work goals, and face more stress and conflict at home with the ones they hold dear.

When Good Intentions Go Wrong

The Givers at the top are known as servant leaders, selflessly putting the needs of others first, and that helps drive the company’s overall success. When a CEO cares more about their organisation’s success over their own, they see higher returns. The ideal situation is having the top boss to put the organisation first, but at the same time do you also want everyone else in the company to be selfless?

Training is a helping profession, full of highly motivated givers, but just how much do they sacrifice of themselves. A selfless response is helping without boundaries. Compared with their self-protective peers, selfless trainers tend to see significantly lower results from the people they help. A selfless trainer exhausts themselves trying to help everyone with every single request. Their willingness to work late nights and weekends to assist others with problems, colleagues with training plans, and administrative duties. Despite all of their best intentions, these trainers were unknowingly hurting the very people they are trying to help.

People often make the mistake of confusing generosity with selflessness. Givers have been conditioned to believe that being kind means being available 24/7. While being an effective giver isn’t about dropping everything every time for every person. It’s about making sure that the benefits of helping others outweigh the costs to you. Finding ways to give without depleting your time and energy. The givers who take this approach don’t see their performance suffer the way their peers who made a habit of going way above and beyond do.

How to Overcome Generosity Burnout

To become an effective giver, is to recognise that every “no” frees you up to say “yes” when it really matters most. After all, it’s hard to support others when you’re so overloaded that you’ve hit a brick wall. I’ve discovered that productive giving comes in three distinct ways: being thoughtful about

  • how you help
  • when you help
  • who you help

Being a Jack of All Trades

I was fortunate enough to be brought up with a wide range of tasks, opportunities and adventures to undertake growing up. From this, I was able to try many new experiences and constantly learn new things every day. With this, people began to rely on me for my range of skills and abilities, so from a young age I became conditioned to help, unfortunately, with an abundance of youthful energy, I never encountered Burnout.

Random unplanned requests for help are among the biggest drains on a person’s energy and time. Managers, Salespeople and Engineers would definitely like to spend significantly less time in “responding” mode. At least 75% to 90% of a givers day of helping is reactive. A random request is made, we respond, and it’s great to meet you, burnout.

The more times people respond to help requests from coworkers, the more their energy is depleted and the harder it is to focus their attention and persistence with difficult tasks. This effect lasts well into the next day until the next morning and is especially strong for givers who have made greater sacrifices to go the extra mile for their colleagues.

Reactive helping is exhausting, but proactive giving can be energising. Tap into your own interests and skills when you give. It will make you less stressed, and have a greater impact. Take some time out to think if you are “giving” too much…

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Generosity Burnout

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