Is Caring Too Much Sabotaging Your Career?
Moods are contagious. I’ve seen apathy and indifference ruin careers and drag down entire teams. And when an entire team or business unit doesn’t care, it’s a recipe for failure in a business.
But what about the opposite end of the spectrum?
In my experience, caring too much about a result can be as detrimental to progress as not caring at all.
You can easily go from taking positive action to obsessively fixating on a specific outcome that you don’t control, which leads to overdoing it. High achievers are especially at risk of sliding down this slippery slope.
Here are three ways that caring too much can show up as a liability, and what you can do about it.
Caring too much about the result
Of course results matter at work. But problems arise when you get fixated on the result itself – so much so that the outcome becomes the sole definition of success.
If you’re a basketball coach or player, that could be focusing solely on winning the game above all else. At the office it might be focusing on hitting a sales target.
Focusing only on the end result can lead to failure because it’s binary – you either win or you don’t. You either hit your numbers or you don’t. And this can put so much pressure on you or your team that you end up underperforming your potential as a unit.
What you can do about this is get invested in the process – i.e. the things in your control – while remaining conscious of the desired result.
You’re more likely to get the results you wanted in the first place when you focus on the preparation and taking all the steps to put yourself in a position to succeed.
And even if you don’t, you can still be successful based on the process-oriented metrics you’ve put in place. It is possible to do everything “right” and still not get the outcome you were aiming for.
In the end, it’s about peace of mind. When you’ve taken all the steps you possibly can, then it’s easier to let the chips fall where they may and still count your wins and learning along the way.
Being too emotionally involved
People who are too emotionally invested will tend to overreact or cling on to things for too long instead of being calm and objective. This version of caring too much is dangerous because it clouds your judgement.
Maybe it’s a pet project that you refuse to kill even though the results have been disappointing. Or a prospective client that you keep pouring resources into, waiting for the big payoff.
When you find yourself being overly emotional or attached at work, I recommend you get someone impartial involved to advise you so you don’t get blindsided by possible pitfalls.
Having an objective “thinking partner” to talk through the issues with can keep you from making decisions that could hurt your reputation.
Caring too much about what people think
To some extent, what other people think matters in your career. After all, people promote people and the quality of our relationships often drive the opportunities to learn, grow and excel.
But when you care too much, it becomes a drag on your performance.
You start to play smaller and become more cautious. Maybe you stop speaking up when you disagree or hold back from making a point. Perhaps you won’t push for what you think is right for fear it might offend someone important.
The reality is that this is a terrible burden. It keeps you from living up to your full potential, and it sets you up for regret about the things you wanted to do or say but didn’t.
Instead, start to recognize when you’re making assumptions about what others are thinking. Notice when you’re jumping to conclusions or fearing the worst. This is the first step to shifting your mindset to a more productive one.
For me, it helps to write down all the “what if” scenarios that I worry about, look at the worst thing that could happen for each, and assess how likely any of it will happen.
Then, I remind myself of two things. First, that history has shown that what I imagine is always worse than reality. And second, no matter what happens, I’ll still have my family, friends, and the trust of those I care about.
Finally, I tell myself to go for it, otherwise I’ll have regrets. And regrets are a heavy weight to carry for the rest of your life.
So, where are you most at risk of caring too much and what will you do about it?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Great post, May. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Being results-driven/focused is often included in many companies’ management and leadership competencies. Ironically, caring too much about the result leads to counterproductive or unethical behaviors. Your post is a good reminder to all of us that result orientation should not become result obsession.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, David. The irony of counterproductive and unethical behavior in pursuit of good results is indeed a shame. As they say, strengths taken to an extreme become weaknesses.
I like the section on Caring too much about what people think. I am guilty of not speaking in meetings because I do not wish to offend people.
Also, you are quite correct about the assumptions being worst than in reality. The final section is totally me.
Congratulations on recognizing these things about yourself, Gail – it’s the first step to change and growth.
And you are definitely not alone!
I wonder if you could challenge yourself to phrase things using only positive words? That way, you can state your views in a way that is unlikely to offend anyone.
Many thanks May for a great post. I really enjoyed reading it. All the best Barry.