Are you the go-to person when coworkers need assistance? Are you the one that goes the extra mile to help coworkers resolve complex issues? While helping others is generally good, it can be detrimental to the person saying ‘yes’ all the time.

According to a study completed by Michigan State University, helping too much can deplete energy levels and impact productivity. Those who are socially motivated to help are especially drained the more assistance they provide.

The simple answer is to say no, but how do you say it without appearing impolite? Or without giving the impression that you’re not a team player? Fret not, here are three easy ways to accomplish just that.

#1 Try the ‘Coach Approach’

The coach approach is a method of helping others help themselves by asking a series of questions. Ask questions like: What have you tried already? What was the result? What do you think the solution is? Most times, the person with the problem has the answer already in their head, but they just need someone to help draw it out. This method takes the mental pressure to think of solutions off you AND you’re still helping! It might also encourage the coworker to think through the problem more thoroughly before seeking help.

#2 Refer to a Subject Matter Expert (SME)

While you may be inclined to help, you’re probably not an expert in all subjects. Use this to your advantage when a coworker approaches you for help on a subject in which you’re not well versed. Simply say, “I’m only a little familiar with that, but you might want to try Steve in IT. He has a better understanding of it.” Or, you can refer to online sources that helped you before. Let the coworker do the digging rather than you!

# 3 Schedule a meeting

One of the biggest pitfalls of helping coworkers is falling behind on your own work. Simply say to your coworker, “I have a few items that I must complete today. However, I have some time tomorrow morning. Can you schedule some time for us to discuss then?” Or, suggest a working lunch or coffee break that wouldn’t take you away from your own workload.

So, it’s okay to help, but do it with caution. With practice, you can strike a balance between helping others and completing your own workload. Good luck!

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