I recently came across two statistics which made me stop and really think. One said that 72% of Americans experienced daily anxiety that interferes with their personal and professional lives. The second said 68% of leaders and managers report feeling overwhelmed on a weekly basis. Just think of those numbers and the impact it is having on each of us and in our workplaces. It is no surprise that our level of burnout is higher than it has ever been.
When we feel this level of anxiety and overwhelm, we tend to respond in predictable ways. One of those ways is by over-functioning or under-functioning. When we over-function we step in and begin to think, feel, and act for another person. Now we may well think we are doing a good thing but in reality, it’s adding to the emotional burden we are dealing with because we are acting on their behalf, feeling on their behalf, and thinking on their behalf.
What’s more, we are also eroding their capacity to be thoughtful actors themselves.
So, what does that look like in reality? In organizations, it can be the person who jumps in and offers advice before it’s even asked for or even people taking over aspects of people’s jobs without being asked to. However, it’s not just the doing but it’s also the emotions and thought we take on. It’s overly worrying and fretting about someone else and feeling responsible for the feelings of someone else. Or feeling responsible for how people think.
Now the opposite of this is under-functioning which also is a way of reacting to anxiety and stress. This can show up in constantly avoiding decisions. Maybe it’s not voicing your opinion and just letting others have their way. As you can see there is a seesaw action here. Some people will over the function while others under-function. Let me offer an example to best show this.
I had a client who over-functioned when she felt anxiety.
Her co-worker under-functioned in the same situation. When her boss would give her co-worker a task they would wait until the very final moment to do it putting off any decisions. My client could not cope with the tension of this delay and felt a need to step in and take over the task. She then had resentment in having to do it. What was interesting was that it was not the time it took to do the task that was as draining and the emotional toll which was building up with her resentment. I asked her why she need to do this. Her response was that if she did not then it would lead to a greater mess. I further asked that if things did fall apart was that not, okay? Why are you responsible? Why are you taking on the emotional and physical burden for someone else?
Now as an over-function myself I totally understand that it is easier said than done. Often it is our self-awareness of these common behaviors that are missing.
For the EQ workout today, I offer you a few questions to stop and ask yourself when you feel anxious:
Why am I doing this action?
Why is it my responsibility?
Why am I worrying and fretting about his person?
If you tend to under function then you could ask the following questions:
Why am I avoiding this action?
Why am I not taking responsibility?
Why am I letting someone else step in?
I am also thrilled to announce that I have launched a new podcast which I am co-hosting with a colleague Bridgette Theurer called the Resilient Leadership Podcast. I invite you to listen to our latest episode, Banishing Burnout: How to rebalance your life and connect to your purpose.
You can find the latest episode here. Please feel free to pass it on to anyone whom you think might find it useful.