Offers to help yield exponentially greater results, here is why…
We’ve all been in this situation – you are swamped with work, too much to do and too little time, and then someone (perhaps a manager, a co-worker, or someone from another group) asks if you can help pull together another piece of the overall project which is far outside your general scope of work. And you think to yourself, “that’s not my job, why can’t the person responsible for it handle it?” You may even voice this objection to the person requesting this extra work of you. I know the feeling. Frustration, overwhelm, anger, contempt for whoever seems to be lacking in fulfilling their duties which has lead to the request of extra work on your part. How should you handle this, what is the best path forward?
Should you strongly object to the extra work and insist that they (“Bob”) get their act together and do their job? Perhaps go around to your friends in the office and complain to them that Bob’s department is incapable, incompetent, and totally useless? Maybe just ignore the request and hope whatever incomplete piece of the project magically resolves itself?
Or, should you dig in to the ask. Try to understand the gap in resources, time, or capabilities that has lead to Bob’s group being unable to complete one of their responsibilities. Evaluate if there is a way you could help in this scenario, even though it wouldn’t normally be part of your job. Are you really so overbooked that you can’t lend a hand? Is your workload so high that you literally don’t have another 2 or 3 hours in the week which could be used to contribute to this incomplete task? What if you don’t help and no one else can either? What will be the result to the overall project if no one can pick up the slack for Bob’s team?
It can be so tempting to knee-jerk to the negative reaction. To bitch and moan and complain how unfair it is to be given extra work from someone else’s team. However, there maybe a valid reason for this request, and if you could see the full picture, you would be more sympathetic to their request for assistance. Plus, if a major piece of the overall project is in a critical state, does it really matter if your work is completed on time?
Remember, in these scenarios, collaboration will pay dividends in the long run even if it requires a bit of overtime in the near term. If you collaborate, if you offer to help instead of complaining that its “not my job”, you are not only helping the team meet their larger objective, you will likely gain the gratitude and favors of those you are assisting. With an offer to help Bob in his time of need, how much more likely will Bob be to help you when you need a favor? Is Bob a gatekeeper for someone important, can Bob allocate additional resources for your team sometime in the future, or could Bob help fast track the approval of a future proposal? Probably.
Helping another part of the organization in times of crisis are rarely, perhaps never, Win-Lose scenarios. Yes, that extra work will be a challenge for you. However, if you can suck it up in the short term, you will not only contribute to a larger group success but you will almost certainly gain a resource you can leverage down the road.
So, do the work, lend a hand, and help the team move closer to your shared goal.