Why putting in too much effort can erode your value – Part 1

I often ask my clients the question; ‘What’s your price?’

It’s a technique designed to get them to think about what they are worth in monetary terms and I discuss what makes someone more important or of ‘higher value’ to an organisation. This is not about their salary but their total cost and the whole cost. Let me explain…

We calculate their hourly rate based on a number of factors including time and effort and then compare to their salary averaged out per hour. I call the first one their ‘all-in’ rate. They are often shocked when they realise how little their all-in rate is versus their paid salary. Some have found their all-in rate barely scrapes past the minimum wage.

I have clients who have used this to negotiate a pay rise or secure a commitment from their manager to review their compensation which I great but this is about more than monetary compensation. Used effectively it helps you realise what you are worth and how to command that worth with others. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.

I want to expand further on the concept of ‘price’ in this article and talk about why taking on too much and giving up too much of your time and energy erodes both your value and your reputation.

One common issue I come across with a lot of my clients is the belief that ‘I am what I deliver’ or ‘I am my effort’. If I work really hard, I will be valued. If I work long hours, I will be appreciated and recognised. If I am picking up and responding to emails over the weekend, people will value my commitment. If I do all of this…I will feel validated by others and I will feel worthy.  

This is often exacerbated by fear and the fear of what might happen if you say no.

‘I can’t say no, I need a job. I need a salary’.

‘I have to answer emails at the weekend or when I am holiday, I will be in trouble if I don’t’.

‘I can’t say no, people will think less of me’.

‘Everyone else does it’.

These are common concerns raised by my clients at what might happen if they push back.

We work in a world that is busy and we are all busier than ever. This isn’t about being really busy, everyone is. This is the norm. Many of you consistently go over and above at the expense of your sanity, your health and wellbeing, and certainly your life outside of work. You are driven by a need to please others, you over-work or overcompensate and you probably lack the ability to comfortably say no. That’s not busy, that’s being a doormat.

Does the below describe you in any way?

  • You find yourself working long hours and constantly dealing with fire drills or last-minute work that comes into your inbox. You also know and can plainly see that others around you might not be slacking off, but they certainly aren’t working the same hours that you are.
  • You don’t feel comfortable challenging others.
  • You give in very easily when pushed.
  • You are involved in sorting a lot of stuff out but it’s not clear what your role is versus others. You get asked to just ‘get involved’ or ‘troubleshoot’ which usually ends up with you having to take over.
  • People affectionately joke that you are you known as ‘the fixer’, the ‘go to’ person or the person who ‘gets stuff done’ which is often followed by them asking you to do something.
  • You get given uninteresting or last-minute work to do by people who apologise the first time for giving them to you. You notice over time the tasks keep coming but the apologies don’t.
  • You’re never ‘off’ your work phone. You check emails at the weekend or in the evening.
  • You find yourself compromising on your personal goals or development in order to support others. You and your needs come last.

If you ticked 5 or more of the above and recognised they applied to you, you are busy to the point of it being too much and you being taken advantage of.

Been there. Done that. I know how it feels. I also know how to solve it.

Why is ‘doing a lot’ or giving too much of your time a bad thing?

  • Giving too much, overextending yourself, always being the yes person, devalues you over time. Too much of a good thing loses its value. You go from being the person people can count on to take on ‘stuff’, to being the person people assume will take on ‘stuff’ to simply being the person being taken advantage of full stop. I am not being cynical when I say this. It is also not because people are inherently bad or horribly manipulative (well in most cases they aren’t). If they think they can get away with it, they will. Its human nature.
  • You lose people’s respect. People know when they are taking advantage or ‘pushing it’. Be under no illusion on this. Its why, when you do say no, you find its easier than you thought. The person usually knows they were onto a good thing with a limited timespan anyway. After a while, they will wonder why you keep allowing it. They will question the respect you have for yourself and wonder why you haven’t said enough is enough.
  • Work begets more work. If the above list resonated with you, I guaranty at some point you have moaned to a partner or a colleague that the reward you get for doing lots of work is more work. Of course it is!! Managers tend to give work to people they can rely upon to get it done. You’re a safe bet. A sure thing. No manager goes out of their way to deliberately overload their people (most don’t anyway and if you are working for someone who does then dust off your CV and find another job…. fast) but the reality is, if they are busy and they know they can depend on you, you will be their first port of call.
  • Whether you like it or not, if you constantly offer to do too much or are at someone’s beck and call the whole time, it can make people uneasy. This may sound or feel unfair but they may think you are being self-serving and will question your motives.
  • Being the ‘person who can’ all of the time will alienate your colleagues and make people suspicious. No one liked the teacher’s pet at school.

The above is intended to think about this in terms of your value but it goes without saying that this has a detrimental impact on your health and wellbeing.

I knew so many men and women in Banking who did too way much and worked way too hard. These were not stereotypical Mergers and Acquisition folks. These were back office or operational people in everyday roles at every level of the organisation.

I talk a lot about boundaries to my clients. Boundaries are not a self-indulgent notion to be found in the self-help section of a bookstore. They are critical to your self-esteem, your identity, your very being. If this post resonates with you, I suspect you either don’t have any or enough boundaries or you aren’t enforcing them vigorously enough.

In part 2 I talk about my experiences of saying no, taking on less and the impact it had on me and I talk you through the tools and techniques I use when working with my clients that, if used correctly will help you raise your price and save your sanity in the process.