You are staring at your computer screen and you are stressed. Yet another day has passed and you haven’t really made any progress with your work assignments: instead, the whole day has gone by helping your colleagues. You’re known as the go-to guy in your office when it comes to all things IT-related, and although you love to help people out with their computer woes, this activity is starting to burn you out.
There is also a price to pay when it comes to your unofficial role: you help others at the expense of missing deadlines in your own assignments and projects. Because of this, your bosses and project managers have already started asking why you are unable to keep up with agreed-upon timelines.
The situation becomes unbearable: you want to help your colleagues, but at the same time, you’d like to take care of your work as well. Unfortunately, you have run out of ideas on how to solve the situation.
When looking more closely at your situation, it’s very easy to understand why you are feeling stressed and burned out: you’re a nice person and you want to help others, and you probably feel good about yourself when you have fixed issues for other people so they can continue with their work. People probably realize that they can get answers more quickly from you than by following official routes—by calling the IT support office of your company, for example. That’s likely another reason why they come to you.
Finally, your open door policy and unwillingness to say “no” is like an open invitation to others: You are kind to them, you do what they ask you to do, and you are always available.
There is most likely a conflict deep inside you, as part of you wants to change the situation, but again, you are afraid to do it. You might be scared of what other people would think of you if you say “no” to their requests—you want to please others, not make them feel bad, making it difficult to say “no” to them.
Ultimately, this niceness is causing more harm than good to you as you end up having a hard time doing your own work on time.
To make things easier and to solve the situation,you need to set a policy that defines how these unofficial tasks are going to be handled in the right way: this policy will determine your general accessibility, how you will communicate with others and how others will communicate with you, as well as the official routes when dealing with IT problems.
To make the policy more powerful, you have to define it with your superior, and it has to be communicated clearly to your colleagues—only in that way will things will get better and you will finally be able to focus on your own tasks.
To implement this policy, consider taking the following steps:
1. Talk to your boss. It all starts by having a meeting with your boss.
Let him/her know that you are overworked because of being the go-to guy at the office and as a result, you can’t handle your own workload anymore. Make a decision to craft a special policy about this, which is communicated to your colleagues via e-mail or another means determined by your boss.
This policy sets the rules how you should be contacted with regard to those unofficial tasks.
2. Define the right way to communicate. Implement this part of the plan in two ways: electronically and physically.
The electronic part pertains to how other people contact you by e-mail and via instant messaging, and when you are expected to get back to them. It should also define how you will communicate with other people on the phone. The physical aspect defines how you will communicate with people who approach you directly at your office work space .
In either of these cases, you can make it clear that you are only available during certain hours of the day for unofficial matters, but for the rest of the time you are focusing on your own work assignments. Be sure to make it clear that any question that’s not related to your work assignments is handled with lower priority, as you are busy with your own projects.
3. Isolate yourself physically. If you still get distracted by others, it’s time to take more drastic action and relocate yourself physically to another part of the office. For instance, if your office has any rooms free, you could start working in one of them and keep the door closed. If that doesn’t work, then you could make an arrangement where you work from home—this cuts physical contact with you to minimum.
If you have talked with your boss about your current workload (as in step 1), there should be fewer distractions than before and you should be able to work with a much better focus.
4. Ask people to follow official processes. You can ask people to follow official protocols when dealing with certain types of issues. For example, if the issues are specifically related to IT problems, then ask them to contact the official IT support people for sorting out those matters.
You can also ask your boss to remind your colleagues of this protocol as well: that the right way to get help is to use the official channels—even if it takes longer to fix the issue.
Finally, if your colleagues are more willing to come to you than use the official channels, this should ring an alarm bell for your boss. Maybe the corporate policies are not as effective as they could be, and they should be changed as soon as possible.
5. Change roles. Finally, ask yourself if you are in the right position inside the company—should you be working for the IT department instead? If you are already doing well with people and you are knowledgeable about a specific topic, would you consider switching over to another role instead?
There a lot of these go-to guys and girls in offices around the world who are kindly helping out their colleagues, causing their own workplace performance to suffer as a result. If this has been happening to you, discuss it with your boss as quickly as possible: with this single step, the whole issue could be resolved and you can focus on the work you are supposed to do.
(Also, please note that this post focused on IT related matters, but naturally you can apply these steps to other businesses and roles as well.)
Over to you: If you are a go-to person at your office, do you say “no” to people when they come to ask for help?
Featured photo credit: Handsome guy looking down via Shutterstock
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