Avoiding Service Burnout

Xperience Growthblogposts

Is it better to give or to receive? No judgement whichever you believe. If you say “receive” then you can stop reading this post as I doubt it will apply to you. If you’re among the givers who wish to serve others, my goal with this post is to make sure you’re able to serve freely and effectively.

A common problem that I hear with people that tilt toward serving others is that they get burned out. When burnout happens, they are not able to serve to the degree they want and sometimes not even at all.

That burnout can also lead to us feeling frustrated, resentment and losing trust in people. It can also feel like overwhelm, guilt and ruminating over the past.

Here’s some common problems that servers encounter.

Being sympathetic instead of empathetic. When we’re sympathetic, we feel sadness or pity felt for someone else. We “feel so sorry for them” and we pity them. While might sound kindhearted, what you’re actually doing is putting yourself on a superior pedestal. Pity “pits” them as inferior to you. That creates conflict inside of you because you are seeing yourself as better than them in this particular situation. Even if this conflict is only within you, it harbors resentment, frustration and anger… all symptoms of burnout.

Empathy comes from sharing in the person’s emotional experience. You “feel their pain” as best you can. It’s an even playing field and you connect better with them and they with you.

We want to fix problems and people. This is me! I’m a fixer. Here’s what it looks like… My wife Kristen is an incredible real estate agent and terrific negotiator. Honestly, whenever it comes to family items to negotiate (new cars, real estate investments, contracts, etc.) she does the negotiations. She’s simply better at it then me. She’ll occasionally get frustrated during the negotiations process with the other side. It happens. She’ll get off the phone and vent to me about how the other side is acting in her opinion. So, what do I do as a “fixer”?? I go into fixing. I tell her exactly what she needs to say and do in this negotiation. I’m helping fix her problem, right?? No! I am not! She doesn’t need me to fix anything for her. She just needed a moment to vent. Now, instead of being a supportive husband she can come to, she’s now irritated at me for telling her what to do – and rightfully so! Do that enough times and burnout can set in, with a slippery relationship slope!

We don’t set boundaries. We take on people and their problems as our projects and make it our problems. And we can take on too much. When we bite off more than we can chew or put other people’s priorities over ours, it leads us to failure. In these cases, we are failing ourselves and we’re failing the people that we want to help. That “double failure” can turn into guilt, rumination over what we wish we had done and even lead us to question self-worth.

I imagine that if you prefer to serve others, these are familiar and quite possibly might even produce your own examples.

We must be smart about how we serve to avoid burnout and what can transpire for us. Luckily for us, it’s not hard. It just takes a little awareness, a few mindset shifts and maybe some discipline to continue to be the server that we naturally are without the baggage that can come with the territory.

Here’s three ways to avoid service burnout.

Be a strategic giver. In the book Give and Take by Adam Grant, he talks about the concept of being “others-ish.” Grant defines others-ish as “being willing to give more than you receive, and still keeping your own interest in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how and whom you give.“ When you can define the rules by which you will give and who you’ll give to, it actually frees you up to serve more. You’re in your sweet-spot and are aware of your time commitments.

If everyone wants some of your time, make sure that they are taking your time for topics YOU want to share and then create time in your day or week to field those. If the topic is not your topic of choice, refer out. If your allotted “serving” time is booked, refer out or push to the next available time.

Consider the perspective: No one needs your help. This thought can be a challenge, no doubt. Think of it this way… When someone needs something, they must get it. We need food, water, shelter (and a great coach 😉). If we see our service on that level, that’s a lot of pressure to get it right. Also, if you believe someone needs you, that perspective can also make you believe you’re superior to them. They “need” my information. They “need” to talk with me. And so on.

Juxtapose, when we believe that everyone is creative, resourceful and whole – we believe they have the capacity to figure out anything. Then we can simply be a resource for them which takes the weight off our shoulders. When that weight is lifted, we can provide even better service because we feel free.

Don’t be attached to the outcome. Give all that you have to give. When you do that, feel good about it. Service drives you and is likely a great characteristic you possess. When we can stop worrying about what comes of our serving or if the other person even accepts our help, freedom once again sets in. Stress and anxiety melt away when we are not attached to something specific happening as a result of what we do.

So, lean into what makes you feel really good and where your sweet spot is – in service of others. When you can give strategically, reframe what the people you’re helping really need and not worry about the result of what you give, you’ll feel more fulfillment and create more personal & business success.