Part of being a good coworker is being willing to lend a helping hand once in a while. However, some people abuse their colleagues’ helpful natures.
The relationships you have at work can make or break your feelings about your job. Having friends at work comes with a lot of benefits. And, working with negative or otherwise difficult people can really bring you down.
You might find yourself filling in to support a coworker in an effort to stay on the positive side of these workplace connections. But, what if you’re worried the other person is taking it too far? In this case, you might want to start saying no.
Here are a few ways to tell if you’re covering for your coworker too much:
1. They’ve come to expect it
A coworker who asks for your help too often might not be as appreciative as you’d think. Instead, they’ll ask you to cover for them in a way that shows they have almost an expectation that you’ll say yes. It could be a sign that your coworker is overstepping if it starts to get to the point that they ask you for coverage in a sort of off-handed way, as if they expect you to comply.
2. It’s happening often
For better or worse, many responsible people often find it a little difficult to ask for help at work. If you’ve ever asked anyone for assistance, you know it isn’t always easy. So, you might have a problem if the coworker in question seems to be asking you for help all the time.
Asking others to lend their time and energy should feel like a big deal. A coworker who’s taking advantage might not see it this way, though. Instead, you might feel like they’re always asking you for one thing or another. You may even have the instinct to run and hide when you see them heading your way. This is because of your prior experience; you know what’s going to happen next, and you can feel your day slipping away.
3. It’s happening regularly
Coworkers ask each other for help on occasion. Perhaps someone needs to leave early to go to a medical appointment and you’re asked to cover a client meeting for them. That’s perfectly fine. However, if you’re being asked to do something like this regularly, your coworker is overstepping. It’s not fair for you to always cover for them on Wednesdays because they leave early every week on that day. Covering for a coworker should never become a routine part of your schedule.
4. Everyone knows about it
People tend to be aware of coworkers who take advantage. This is partially because these folks tend to ask more than one person for help. They think that spreading out the favors will help their laziness go unnoticed. But, the truth is much more obvious to everyone than they realize.
5. Your professional performance is suffering
Covering for others shouldn’t affect your professional performance. Healthy coworker relationships are reciprocal. So, the help, time and energy that you give is returned to you, and your work doesn’t suffer. However, this isn’t the case when you’re covering too much for a coworker. In these cases, the scales are more than a little off balance. If you start to find that your professional performance is suffering as a result of how much you’re helping, it’s probably time to pull back.
6. It makes you feel bad, not good
Doing a favor for someone else can be very rewarding. But, it’s common to feel resentful when too much is routinely being asked of you. If the work you’re doing to help your colleague makes you feel bad rather than good, things may be going too far.
7. You know it’s wrong
It’s natural enough to second-guess yourself in challenging situations. It may even help you make the best decisions, carefully weighing all factors. But, it’s also smart to trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you that your colleague is asking for more help than you can give, you should listen to your hunch. Try establishing some firmer boundaries and pulling back your support a little.
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