Helpfulness Unappreciated!


I have several co-workers that have taken my helpfulness as being a snoop, trying to be in control and being bossy. I try to give hints or ways of doing our jobs to make our jobs easier. They view it as being a know it all, or they think I will do things that make their jobs easier (i.e. like fill up supplies). They take it that I am trying to be “in charge.” But if I don’t say anything or offer my help, they think that I am being snooty and am not part of the team.

I can’t win! How much help is too much help, I am stressed out. It is no fun to go to work. I don’t know when or when not to say anything any more. Now that we have a new co-worker, I feel that they have already told this new hire their thought about me before I even get a chance to show her that I am really a good person inside. It’s my “fault by nature” that I try to “help” everyone out and the business, but not everyone wants to help! It has turned into “Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t” situation. Any suggestions?


Damned Helpful


Dear Damned Helpful:

You have gotten reactions to what you say is your helpfulness. Obviously, your work group does not work as a team. You do not meet regularly to ask: What are we doing well? What might we do to make each other’s jobs more effective and easier? How well are we pleasing our internal and external customers? Who should do what, when, where?

In short you work as individuals, and as a work group, you do not communicate about communicating! Doing that regularly and frequently can transform a work group into a work team. Skull sessions are necessary for sports teams, and should be the norm for work groups. Without them, individuals work solo, and sometimes duplicate, omit tasks, are uncertain about who does what, and/or are jealous and malicious.

You have gotten feedback that makes you feel what you do and don’t do is not appreciated. Since you do not like being perceived as bossy, it is past time for you to shut up and mind only your own business and/or to come to an understanding about who does what, when, and where. These two paths are not complete opposites. You will have to choose if either or both of them might lead to better working relations. Are they paths you want to take?

The shut up path can be seen as pouting withdrawal if you follow it as slighted and angrily; however, if you pleasantly tend to what you know is within your job description, the shut up path should not come across that way. The clarification path can come across as bossy since apparently you have been seen as a body busy with other’s business; however, it need not be so if you candidly request that this topic be put on the group’s agenda with the admission that you have gotten the message that your help is not always appreciated and at other times is seen as lacking. So you feel the need to spell out who does what and to put in writing what is expected and appreciated.

An organization, whether it is a large corporation or a small office, is a process fueled by communication. Organization is not an accomplished fact, a noun; so much as it is an on-going changing entity, an active verb. Those who are its members will have conflicts that can frustrate and escalate to incivility and dysfunction. Or if it is understood that conflict results from the inevitable uncertainties of people working out how best to accomplish tasks, conflict can motivate efforts to collaborate and to find reasonable and even creative solutions to making their jobs more effective and pleasant.

Hopefully, you can choose a path that help resolve the emotional distress you are feeling. We should not hate to come to work. Work rather should satisfy our deepest longings to make a difference in a world much in need of helpfulness. Can you put way back in your mind the thought that it is not fun to go to work? Can you pretend for a week or more that you like your job and the people you work with? Can you resolve to give the shut up path a try while you reflect on when and if you should tread lightly on the clarification path?

Think WEGO–that is seeing your situation from both your own perspective and the perspective of others. Will you then let me know what happens after several weeks–remembering all the while that patterns of reacting that have been stamped in over months and years make take time and persistence to change?

William Gorden