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3 Steps to Stop People from Taking Advantage of Your Generosity

Updated: Jan 20

Many of the leaders I’ve worked with have expressed that when they give, people take advantage of their generosity. 

“I give extra time to a project and the CFO expects more.”

“I allow more flexibility for the team and people take longer breaks, come in later, leave earlier.” 

“If I answer more emails on the weekend, the boss sends more emails and expects me to work on my off-hours.”

You give an inch and they take a mile.

Generosity is not about feeling resentment or regretting that you gave something.  Generosity is something that needs to flow with good energy. Freely. Abundantly. Your generosity should leave you and the recipient of your good deeds feeling fulfilled and happy.

When we feel resentful and frustrated, it stops the flow of generosity. We clam up. We don’t talk about it. It’s like this awkward conversation you just want to avoid. Many feel it will be a no-win situation to bring it up. You’ll be seen as the complainer, or the one who’s rocking the boat!   

Yet any seasoned leader knows the health of our teams depends on direct communication and productive conflict or you'll end up with a team that thrives on complaining behind your back and venting to everyone else.

As always, the leader has to go first. The way we handle such situations is what the team sees and emulates.

These 3 steps will stop you from feeling taken advantage of - and set a much better example for your team:

  1. Be more objective. Don’t take it so personally. Often, the person you feel is taking advantage doesn’t even realize it. And you’ve created this whole story in your mind about how rude he is, or how unthoughtful she is, or what a workaholic he is and his wife must be miserable with the way he works all weekend… you know those stories we create! Be aware that you’re taking it personally, and you’re probably making some things up in your mind. Just be neutral about it.

  2. Be accountable. Be honest with yourself. You’ve played a role in creating this. You’ve not said no, or you’ve not been clear, or you’ve continued to reply to messages on the weekend or do the work without saying anything. That in essence is saying “yes, bring it on, I love this, I want more emails and work from you over the weekend!” Good news is, you have more control over this than you thought. It’s more about how we handle these requests than the requests themselves. (Hint - even if it appears as a demand, treat it as a request.)

  3. Set clear expectations. For example, the boss sends an email on the weekend. Do you just ignore it? No. You reply “I’ll get to this first thing Monday morning, enjoy your weekend!” Or you might use auto-responder with a message that sets the expectation. If you’ve already created an expectation that you do reply to emails during your off-hours, you may need to talk face-to-face about it. “I’ve noticed I’m taking on too much over the weekend and then I feel resentful. I’ve gotta put some boundaries on emails so I’ll be holding off on answering emails until Monday morning. I didn’t want you to wonder what was going on.”

Generosity is critical to leadership, but not without being objective, accountable and clear. The good news is, you’ll feel more in control and not taken advantage of if you exercise these tips. Plus, you’ll be helping your teams communicate with GRIT®, using Generosity, Respect, Integrity and Truth.

Leave a comment to let us know of anything else YOU do so you don’t feel taken advantage of.

Cheers, Laurie

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