WIf you are like me, you are tuned into what other people want and need, and that’s a good thing. That being said, it can also work against you in the workplace. How? Understanding what other people want and need can prompt you to immediately take action to help them out. The best solution is to pause before jumping in to rescue them.

Jumping in immediately to offer help is potentially damaging to your career and to others. First, if you immediately react and volunteer to help, it often means that you let go of your priorities and focus.

I work with several clients who are in the constant state of fixing things for others. If a project needs some further support, they will jump in to help. If a team member can’t work through a problem, they will solve it. The result is that they take on too much work and end up drowning in a sea of projects that don’t necessarily give them the visibility they need for their career.

Second, jumping in to rescue a coworker or direct report doesn’t always help them. This is a great time to pause and ask yourself if you are really helping them by doing their work. Perhaps a better approach might be coach them through the process and thereby empower them to do the project on their own with your guidance and support. That’s the best way for them to learn.

Third reason to pause instead of jumping in to help others is that it damages your reputation in the workplace. I can’t stress this enough. I work with many clients who don’t understand that being the “doer” is not viewed favorably. Most of the time, doers are not seen as having leadership potential and this hurts them when they are looking for promotions.

Pausing before responding to someone’s cry for help will help you to assess the situation and evaluate the next best possible reaction. You might suggest other resources. You could also agree to coach them and empower them to do the work on their own.

Be mindful of your “rescue” behavior and pause before reacting for the benefit of your career as well as your colleague’s.

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