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How To Break Free from Being the Go-To Guy at the Office

How To Break Free from Being the Go-To Guy at the Office

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.

Open Doors, All Year Long

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.

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Do You Care What Others Think of You?

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.

You Need a Policy

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.

Be a go-to Guy, But Only When You Want to Be

To implement this policy, consider taking the following steps:

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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 .

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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.

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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?

In Conclusion

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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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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