By Liz Reyer
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
QUESTION: Lately I've been feeling like the people around me aren't stepping up. I've picked up the slack and felt good about my contributions but now am getting annoyed that others aren't more helpful. What should I do?
ANSWER: It sounds as if you've crossed the line between feeling helpful and feeling like a doormat. Focus now on finding the right balance for yourself.
Acknowledge your annoyance, then set it aside. It won't be an asset as you assess the situation. Take some deep breaths to get centered. If emotions flare as you're working through this, return to your breathing to get regrounded.
Then take an in-depth look at the situation. Does this occur both at work and at home? Is it a long-standing pattern, or something recent? Have you changed in how you take on responsibilities, or have others?
Also consider how others would perceive it. Do you save the day, or are you seen as swooping in and pushing others out? When people step up, do you support or are you critical? Others may be stepping back if they get the message that no one can do something as well as you. Or are they just happy that someone else is there to get things done?
Notice what you gain and lose from this role. On the gain side, you might thrive on feeling needed and being busy. On the other hand, you may feel that you don't have time to get other things done. Or it may seem unfair if others are relaxing while you're busy.
Now imagine your ideal situation. How are people working together? Envision your role and the parts others play. Visualize what happens when new tasks come up and the pressure increases, and notice how you feel inside as you picture more comfortable and equitable working relationships.
Learn to set expectations clearly so that others will step up. Find a time when things aren't hectic, and when you're not feeling taken advantage of. Then lay out the issue to others who are involved. Use "I'' statements to express your point of view so that others aren't put on the defensive. Even better, focus on the business issue: "When things get busy, we need to have more detailed plans to ensure that everything gets done." Get others on board about what needs to get done, so that plans for who, how, and when can be made. (This approach works at home, too.)