Are you helpful?

I have often been told that I am a helpful colleague. I mostly attribute this to my roots – Pakistan is a collectivist nation and helping someone out isn’t uncommon. Then again, I emigrated over twenty years ago and have effectively spent most of my life in a Western European culture which endorses individualism.

Is being helpful necessary? No. Is it rewarded? Sometimes. Can it take time away from your own to-do list? Possibly. Does it elevate your personal brand? Most certainly!

How can you be a little more helpful in the workplace?

  1. Consider putting yourself forward for an assignment which supports your peers or manager but doesn’t necessarily fall under your scope. You will learn something new and position yourself as an enthusiastic and reliable team member.
  2. If you don’t have capacity to help, explain that you would like to but cannot afford to because of reasons x, y and z. Be sincere in your communication.
  3. Work late if it helps to achieve a greater objective like a project deadline even if you aren’t leading the project.
  4. Offer to provide coverage for colleagues on holiday and do a great job on their behalf.
  5. When others help you, thank them for their kindness and return the favor in their time of need.

What to avoid ..

  1. The line between being helpful and a doormat is a fine one. Know when to draw limits. You want to balance being helpful with commanding respect.
  2. Taking for granted situations where you are helped by colleagues both below and above your pay grade.
  3. Being helpful is great but making false promises doesn’t help to manage expectations. Only offer what you intend to deliver.
  4. Overstretching yourself to the point of a burn out or resentment. At this point you have defeated the purpose of helping and it’s working against you.
  5. Helping can be perceived as interference or your intentions may be questioned especially by those for whom being helpful isn’t second nature. In these cases, try to understand the scenario and personalities you’re dealing with before offering a helping hand.

Me, myself and I will only take you so far. Eventually, somewhere, you will need to lean on someone for support. Before this, you want to ensure that you have created a positive image among your colleagues, sufficient goodwill in the workplace and have led by example using the priceless four words How can I help?