The most critical component in a team environment is trust. Lack of trust can lead to unnecessary fear, conflict, and anxiety.
Teamwork revolves around healthy boundaries and partnership. Everyone has a role to play in true partnership, and each person is responsible for playing their part. Things can quickly get out of balance, however, when someone on the team feels the need to step in and snatch responsibility from other team members. This often begins with a breakdown of trust.
Fear is Often the Motivation of the Unnecessary Hero
Several months ago, I realized that occasionally I've unknowingly fallen into the trap of stepping in to help someone before they actually need my help. I sometimes have a tendency to try to be "the hero." To use an analogy, I will jump into the deep end of the pool to rescue someone from drowning. The problem is that I jump in before the person begins to show signs of drowning. For all I know, this person can actually swim.
The problem with jumping into the pool to rescue someone who doesn't need saving is that you create an emergency where there otherwise isn't one. And emergencies bring with them stress and anxiety.
More often than not, the person jumping in and assuming responsibility for a task that isn't theirs is driven by an unhealthy sense of fear. In the back of their mind, the question is raised, "What if it doesn’t get done?" Or, "What if it isn’t done correctly?"
The honest answer to those questions? It's none of your concern. You have your own responsibilities and priories that demand your attention, and adding more work to your plate only increases your stress.
On a professional team, you have to cast your fear and worry aside and trust people to do the job that they were hired to do. Everyone deserves a shot to sink or swim, and most people — when given the chance — will learn to swim.
Avoid the Hostile Takeover
It can start off with something as simple as offering a co-worker an unsolicited suggestion. But if you're not clear on your intention and motivation, it can easily devolve into harsh criticism, or even completely taking over a task from a co-worker because you don't trust that they're capable enough to handle it.
You may think that you're helping by jumping in and assuming responsibility that isn't yours, but the reality is that you're overstepping your boundaries and seizing control. You're trying to control an outcome by exerting control over someone who should be viewed as a responsible partner.
And guess what? People don't like to be controlled. If someone feels that someone else is trying to control them, they fight to break free from that control. And this is where I've seen a lot of conflict amongst team members arise.
You must give up control and trust each team member to either succeed or fail. Giving a team member the space and freedom to succeed helps them to build self-confidence, and it allows the rest of the team to build trust in them.
And what if they fail?
Here's the thing about failure: failures often lead to setbacks, but
- Failures are temporary, and
- Failures present opportunities to learn.
It's often said that failure is on the road to success.
Resentment Will Grow From Taking On Too Much
You should also avoid always taking on unsolicited tasks that should be shared by the team. The problem with taking on these tasks is that no one is going to stop you. You're doing everyone else a favor and letting them off the hook, freeing them of what should be a shared burden.
Once everyone has grown used to you always being the one to take on the burdens of the team, no one will stop you from continuing to do so. It will become the norm.
This will put you on the path to burnout, and a sense of resentment will begin to fester inside of you towards the other team members. You will feel alone and isolated, like you're the only one who cares about what happens if something doesn't get done.
It's All About Partnership
The only way a team will flourish over the long haul is to ensure that every member of the team is treated like a valued partner.
Ideally, roles should be clearly defined and communicated. This serves as a means to enforce accountability, and it helps to establish boundaries for areas of responsibility among team members.
Partnership is about shared responsibility, and every team member must value respect, communication, accountability, and trust.
It can be difficult to see when we've taken on too much, and when we've seized too much control and have violated the trust of our team. By the time we realize what's happened, we could already be well down the path of conflicts and burnout.
Do you feel tired and overly burdened? Do you feel alone amongst your team? If so, then you may being taking on too much. Sit down with your manager and discuss sharing some of the responsibility that you've taken on.
A good manager or supervisor will be more than willing to have that conversation with you. It makes their lives easier when their team is happy and stress free. In fact, a perceptive manager will already know that you're taking on a lot and will be receptive to lightening your load.