Should You Take on Tasks That Aren’t Yours?

Quite a loaded question isn’t it? We have all done, or at least, seen it being done in the workplace. It is important to think about whether it’s appropriate or helpful to do another colleague’s tasks.

It’s natural to jump in when a task you are capable of comes up at work. But before you do, ask yourself these questions…Are you overstepping the mark by taking over a colleague’s role…do they require your assistance? Would your skills and efforts really improve the outcome of the task? Do you even have the time to take on other roles- are you on top of your own primary tasks?

And another thing, who is it for? Why was it passed on? Now, this is a good point to start with and the most important thought you should keep in mind, followed by:

  • You cannot pour from an empty cup

Know that you have to help yourself first; do your own tasks before anyone else’s. This means having a clear set of expectations about you and your day. Make sure you are firm with this. This is a form of self-love. Make sure you don’t forget this.

  • There should always be a limit

Being kind doesn’t cost much, but there should always be a limit. Kindness helps, but when given too much, it might be taken for granted. Sometimes you need to look out for yourself first!

  • Know your battles

This actually helps you stop complaining. You are a rational being. Therefore, you can think and use your judgments in whatever you face in life. Do not accept a task which is not supposed to be yours, and then complain the next day. Don’t be afraid to say no if you know you won’t be able to complete the task to the best quality. In lay man’s term: don’t take what you can’t achieve.

  • Teach the person how to fish

We have all heard of the proverb: “…give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” It applies in this context too…would it be better if you teach your ways than to actually do it? This is a value-adding, proactive approach. Not all abilities can be taught but if you find there is a skill-set that you can teach others, then why not try to share your expertise and see if it works.

Now, let us get back to the question- should you do the tasks that are not supposed to be yours? Are we working wisely to achieve what we are supposed to as individual employee or do we tend to sacrifice some things for other people even if it leads to an inability to do our own?

The answer is, it depends. It depends on the particular situation, your workload, your expertise, and the ability of your colleagues to pick up your skills. Of course, teamwork is important but know you limits. Don’t let people take advantage of your kindness; you may be taken for granted.

On the other hand, some colleagues may not appreciate you doing tasks that are supposed to be theirs. There’s a fine line between being helpful and intruding on other people’s work.

Good luck! The key here is to exercise good judgment according to each unique situation.

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