One of the dilemmas many workers find themselves in is when their generosity is taken advantage of. You know the scenario, a co-worker asks for your help with a particular task and you willingly help them out. Only to find the following week the very same co-worker again asks for your help with the very same task. Very soon you find the task you originally started out helping a co-worker with has now become your task. The dilemma here is how do you politely prevent this situation happening to you.
In the interests of good working relationships, it is good practice to help out your co-worker, after all, you both work on the same team and for the same company. However, at the same time how do you prevent your less well organised co-worker from taking advantage of your generosity?
There is a rather clever way to do this, and that is to delay sending the finished work to your co-worker. To avoid causing yourself stress, you should complete the work as soon as you would normally complete the work. However, you don’t send it immediately. One of the very reasons why your co-worker comes to you is because you are organised and in control of your work and they are confident you will get the work done quickly. Therefore delay sending the finished work to them. Because you have completed the work, you feel no stress — you can send the work to them any time. This is particularly important if your co-worker is your boss. Each time your co-worker asks for the work, you delay them. You tell them you haven’t had time to do it yet. When you feel you have kept them waiting long enough, send it to them. Each time they ask you to help them out, you delay sending the work to them longer and longer. Eventually, they will stop asking you.
In my experience, there are a lot of people in our work places that have no concept of time management and have no idea about how to organise their day or their work. These people, particularly if they are in a position of power, seek out co-workers who are better organised and they offload a lot of their work on to them. The path of least resistance is to give in and help them out. But it is important to educate these people. As an organised person, you have a duty to pass on your organisational skills to other, less fortunate people and this is a great place to start.
Be very careful of the false compliment
This little trick from your co-worker is where they will come over to you and tell you that you are so good at doing something they really would like you to do it for them too. This is usually used by an older, more experienced co-worker and they will exploit your naivety as much as they can. If it’s not your job, you need to take control. Do not fall for this trick. You might very well be the best at designing a presentation, but that is not what you were hired to do. It was your co-worker who was asked to do it and therefore it is their job. So, delay the work. Make them wait, and wait and wait. Very quickly they will stop asking you.
I do not recommend you do this every time one of your co-workers asks for your help. Remember, you work for the same team, but you can use this trick with a co-worker you feel is taking advantage of your productivity skills. You have your own work to do, and you need to do that work the very best of your abilities. To do that, you do not have time to do the work of your co-workers as well. So, be polite and respectful, but at the same time protect your time and work ethic and you will soon find your co-workers will give you the same level of respect.
Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century.