Issue 14 of Responsibility syndrome
It’s not uncommon for those who suffer from responsibility syndrome to take unreasonable amounts of responsibility at work, while simultaneously feeling guilty about not doing enough. You may feel that you have to do a lot of things yourself in order to avoid complete disasters. If something goes wrong, you think that it’s due to some mistake you made, or the fact that you didn’t work hard enough. You are usually much more forgiving toward others than toward yourself. You wouldn’t dream of trying to force a coworker to work when they have a fever, yet you almost never call in sick no matter how sick you are.
Psychologist and author Maria Farm writes:
“At work, you may feel like the outcome of a project completely depends on your efforts. Even though there are five of you working on it, you wouldn’t estimate your own effort to be 20 percent, which would be logical, but rather about 80 percent.”
What can you do to break your habit of taking too much responsibility at work?
It may be getting repetitive at this point, but the solution is to try out what happens if you do “unacceptable” things like staying home when you are sick, resign from your role as an informal leader or not handing in a project on time.
In teamwork, refrain from taking on the leading executive role and instead see what happens if you leave it for someone else to pick up. Does anyone else step up? Are they as conscientious? What happens if no one does what you normally do? How does it affect results? Is it OK to sometimes be a part of a team whose results are mediocre (in your view)?
If you and your coworkers have gotten accustomed to you taking on the role of the informal leader, i.e. being the one who makes the decisions, organizes a plan and hurries others along, it may take some time before someone else steps up to the plate. In this situation, it may be a good idea to talk to your coworkers to let them know that you wish to stay more in the background in some projects.
Write down which responsibilities you take on when you accept the role of the informal leader in your team. It could be things like: scheduling meetings, coming up with a time plan, booking rooms for meetings, making sure even the laziest member of the team does his or her part, mediating between coworkers who are often at odds, and proofreading or checking other people’s work.
Practice not taking on your usual role, and try to refrain from doing these things at work. Note what happens. Do your team’s assignments get organized anyway? Do you need to take on as much responsibility as you usually do in order for things to get done?