How to Avoid Generosity Burnout
Protecting "Extra Milers" From Overdoing It
Most of us are eager to help out or "lend a hand" when we see others struggling – particularly at work. It can feel good to be generous, and to share our time, skills and expertise with our colleagues. But when we do it too often and say "yes" to too many things at once it can cause generosity burnout (also known as "collaborative overload").
If you're an "extra miler" – someone who goes out of your way to help others and strives for excellence – you likely enjoy being the one who everyone relies on and whose extra input, dedication and contribution is valued. But problems can start to creep in when you say "yes" to too many things at once or when it's always expected that you'll do so.
These high expectations from colleagues, and even your manager, can soon lead to burnout and exhaustion – mental, physical and emotional.
In this article, we'll discuss the causes and dangers of generosity burnout, and the steps that you can take to avoid it.
What Is Generosity Burnout?
The term "generosity burnout" was first coined by Wharton professor of management, Adam Grant, and researcher, Reb Rebele, in an article published by Harvard Business Press in 2017.
They warned that the value provided by generous extra milers, who are often relied on and expected to pick up additional tasks other than their own, can fall if they become overwhelmed by requests.
According to Grant and Rebele, the main symptoms of generosity burnout are:
- Physical and emotional burnout. Generosity burnout can occur when you there are constant demands on your time. You may feel that you are being pulled in too many directions at once. This will likely impact the quality of your day-to-day work, and can also lead to fatigue, stress and even ill health.
- Resentment and poor morale. You may start to resent your co-workers' demands and expectations, especially if you find it hard to say "no" to them. If this resentment doesn't get addressed, it can begin to affect your performance, morale and emotional well-being.
- Lack of engagement. You might find that you have become so busy dealing with everyone else's demands that you no longer have time for the people who really count – for instance, your team members, your clients or even your family members. They can soon become frustrated with your lack of engagement.
- Poor performance in others. Other team members may begin to take advantage of your generosity, and rely on you so much that they become complacent and unproductive. This can also increase the risk of the team's work being delayed or dropping in quality if you are absent or decide to leave the organization.
In the next section, we'll explore some strategies you can use to protect yourself and your team members from generosity burnout....