Are You Taking on the Full Load?
by Rick Brenner
Taking on the full load is what we do when we feel fully responsible for either the success or the failure of some organizational activity. Instead of asking for help, we take extreme measures to execute responsibilities that might not even be ours.
Evan felt the anger building again. He couldn't compile the monthly summaries until he had reports from every task leader, and Jeff was always last — and always late. And that made Evan's summary late. How could Jeff get away with this stuff, month after month?
Not long ago, Evan and Jeff had been good friends. Evan had tried asking nicely for the reports, but finally he felt compelled to send some nasty emails copied to Jeff's boss. These "tweaking CCs" (see "The Tweaking CC," Point Lookout for February 7, 2001) had probably ruined their friendship, but if the summaries were late, the company might have lost the contract, and Evan would have been responsible. He had sacrificed his friendship with Jeff because he felt personally responsible for meeting the contract requirements. Evan had taken on the full load.
We're taking on the full load when we feel fully responsible for the success or failure of some group activity. We forget that group success or failure depends on contributions from many people. Instead of seeking help, we take extreme measures to execute responsibilities that might not even be ours.
When we feel fully responsible
for the success or failure
of some group activity,
we might be taking on
the full loadWhile we often credit or blame leadership for organizational success or failure, no job — not even CEO — has full responsibility. Everyone has some responsibility, but no matter what your role, the company can always bloom or wither as a result of the actions of others. None of us is fully responsible.
Yet many of us assume that success depends on us alone. Some common reasons:
- I've been told that I'm responsible.
- Nobody actually told me so, but I know it's expected of me.
- If I don't do it, who will? And if nobody does it, we'll all sink.
- If this doesn't get done, we'll fail as a company.
If you find that you're taking on the full load, consider these possibilities:
- Your job might have been badly designed — it might have too much responsibility.
- You might believe that you're responsible, but it might be only your belief.
- If you don't do it, someone else might.
- Perhaps the company should fail.
When you take on the full load, you risk your career, your family, and your health:
- You put your own health at risk. Stress, sleep disorders, heart disease, depression, and shortened life are possible consequences.
- The quality of your work can degrade, as emotional and health problems develop.
- You risk your relationships with co-workers.
- You risk your relationships with family and friends. Marriages can fail.
Take some time to check whether you're taking on the full load. If you think you might be, ask yourself how that came to be. Think about the personal consequences for you. Is it worth the price? Can you ask for help? Top Next Issue
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More articles on Emotions at Work
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- "If we promote you, we'll have to promote all of them, too." This "slippery-slope" tactic for winning debates works by exploiting our fears. Another in a series about rhetorical tricks that push our buttons.
- You Remind Me of Helen Hunt
- At a dinner party I attended recently, Kris said to Suzanne, "You remind me of Helen Hunt." I looked at Suzanne, and sure enough, she did look like Helen Hunt. Later, I noticed that I was seeing Suzanne a little differently. These are the effects of hat hanging. At work, it can damage careers and even businesses.
- I Think, Therefore I Laugh
- Humor is fun — that's why they call it "funny." If you add humor to your own work environment, you'll reduce your level of stress, increase your creativity, and drive your enemies nuts.
- Working Out on Your Dreadmill
- Many of us are experts in risk analysis and risk management. Even the non-specialists among us have developed considerable skill in anticipating troubles and preparing plans for dealing with them. When these habits of thought leak into our personal lives, we pay a high price.
- It's a Wonderful Day!
- Most knowledge workers are problem solvers. We work towards goals. We anticipate problems as best we can, and when problems appear, we solve them. But our focus on anticipating problems can become a problem in itself — at work and in Life.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
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