Nobody's saying anything against helping out a colleague when they're in a tight spot and you have some time to spare. There's a lot to be said for guarding yourself against the office-slackers who make it their business to seek out colleagues they can exploit and regularly roll off some of their workload on though. It is likely they will play on your kindness and be indeed grateful ("You're the best, thanks ever so much"), or appeal to your ego ("You're really so much better at this than I am"). Alright, those phrases have been uttered sincerely too, so you'll just have to go with your gut-feeling if you're being used or truly appreciated.
If you're not sure about what that gut-feeling is, think it through a little. When approached for help you rarely have to answer yes or no on the spot. Take a moment and ask yourself some questions to find out how you feel about entering that commitment (and it is a commitment, assuming you're not likely to say you'll help and then eventually turn around and say you didn't have time after all). For example, is this a reasonable request? Does the colleague genuinely need help because they cannot perform the task at hand? Are you the best person they could ask for help or would somebody else be more suited? Does your schedule permit you taking out the time you would need to help the other out, or would it put you under pressure regarding your deadlines? If this is a recurring issue, would it be possible to speak to a superior about re-distributing responsibilities? Why do you think you should help them? What do you get out of it? What isyour motivation?
If you're new to the position or the company, don't dismiss enquiring colleagues too quickly, but do be wary. If the same people come to you repeatedly, make the time to sit them down and explain exactly how you do the thing they admire so much, in order for them to learn to do it themselves.
Your position comes with its own set of responsibilities, make sure you see to them accordingly. After all, you are the one who will have to answer for them to your boss eventually. How will the boss react when you tell them you couldn't finish your project because you were busy helping out someone else with their tasks? "Hmm, we have a great team-player here" or more along the lines of "What a pity, that sounds like a distinct lack of prioritising and time management skills."
Putting your responsibilities first is a sign of the respect you have for your position and for yourself. All of us need help sometimes, and we should not be afraid to ask for it. But if you have the feeling someone is taking advantage, don't be afraid to say "No, I'm sorry, I'm busy." This way you will avoid unnecessary stress caused by too many open issues that are not even yours to worry about in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, saying "no" to something or someone does not make you a bad person. It makes you an aware person who knows their limits, and that is a very good quality to have.
I invite you to think about all the people in your life, not only in your job, as this powerful concept of boundaries applies to family members and friends as well. Who do you feel comfortable being around? Who would you rather not spend time with? Are there some who take more of your energy than they give? Is there anyone who you feel doesn't respect you? In what way are they behaving? Is there anything you can do about that?
Who says that a nice glass of wine after work is only reserved to the overly stressed-out, by the way. You still deserve to decompress in any way that works for you! Come back next week for more articles on opportunity for change, and have a look at your work-life balance.
Til next time!