Originally published by Valorie Burton 30 July 2017
Taking responsibility is the hallmark of a successful leader. Whether managing people, managing a workload, or managing a household, not much gets done if you don’t take ownership of the tasks that need to get done day to day. But what happens when you don’t just take responsibility for your tasks, but for other people’s as well? It’s called over-responsibility, and it just might be sabotaging your schedule, your effectiveness, and the people around you.
If you stress about whether people in your life will hold up their end of the bargain so you step in to take on tasks that aren’t yours, you are being over-responsible. Here are a few signs you suffer from over-responsibility:
- You behave as though everything and everyone depends on you.
Deep down, you’re actually proud that you’re the one with all the answers, the one who can fix every problem. In some ways, you define yourself by this ability.
- You answer questions for other people, instead of letting them answer for themselves.
If this is you, be honest with yourself. Why do you do it? If you stopped, what would happen? Whatever your answer, that’s the issue it’s time to address.
- You consistently remind the people in your life of their own responsibilities because they aren’t responsible enough to remember on their own.
You keep up with your schedule – and everyone else’s. That wouldn’t be quite so bad if they also kept up with their schedule. Instead, they rely on you. They don’t take responsibility for knowing what’s going on, and take responsibility for their contribution. “You never told me,” “I didn’t know,” or “Just tell me what you need me to do” are a common refrain from those people in your life.
- You consistently do for others what they can do for themselves.
Or perhaps you take it a step further than just reminding others of what they need to do. You just go ahead and do it. And it’s stretching and stressing you. And sometimes, people don’t want you to get involved. They’d rather do it themselves, but you won’t let them! There’s nothing wrong with lending a helping hand sometimes, but there is a problem when you regularly take on responsibilities that aren’t yours. It enables others to live below their potential and stunts their growth. So while you feel like you’re helping, you’re actually doing just the opposite.
- You avoid confronting people as much as possible.
Getting others to change their behavior can mean having an uncomfortable conversation. If you refuse to confront issues, you just might keep allowing others to get away with being irresponsible just to avoid having a conversation to set a boundary.
- You are resentful that people feel entitled to your generosity.
You’ve been over-responsible for so long that people in your life have come to expect it. You’ve trained them to rely on you for things that should not be your responsibility. And deep down, you now resent it. This is perhaps the sign that most indicates the problem has been going on far too long.
My challenge to you:
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing it. Using these six signs, identify when and for whom you are “over-responsible.”
Journal about it:
Consider both your personal, community and professional life. In what way(s) are you currently over-responsible? What would it do for you to be free of responsibilities that are not your own? What would it free you to do? What task or responsibility will you let go of this week and give back to the person to whom it should belong?
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