Being the ‘office go to’ becomes a mental tug-of-war. We take pride in being the fountain of knowledge but when we’re snowed under, we ask ourselves “couldn’t they have figured that out themselves?”
When you’re new to a role, you want to prove you’re a team player. You offer to replace the toner, you volunteer to reconcile receipts, but soon you realise you’ve become the dumping ground for tasks that don’t fall under your job description.
You’re sitting in a transactional position.
So, how do you strike the perfect(ish) balance between maintaining approachability and information sharing with moving away from a transactional position and into a strategic one? You treat the approach like a funnel.
At the top you’re saying ‘yes’ more often to those little tasks that lighten the load of others. When someone doesn’t quite know where to put a task, they add it to your workload.
As you move down the funnel, you’re starting to push back – in a professional and polite way, of course! You write up the steps of how to replace the toner and where to find it, draw up a team chart with names, role titles and headline responsibilities, and suggest a roster for tidying up the kitchen. You still offer to help, but before they thank you, you mention that for next time, the printer instructions are on the wall above it.
We’re now getting to the pointy end. When a colleague says they don’t have time to do their receipts or book a work trip, yet find time for a coffee run, you explain that today you’re focusing on a range of priorities however, if they still need a hand in a few days’ time, they can reach out to you again. You offer a few solutions – “if you don’t have time, happy to share my travel agent’s details with you”.
Why is getting to the pointy end important?
Because it gives you space for when the sh*t really hits the fan. When you need to quickly pivot to react to actual priorities or those of your boss – you don’t need to be reconciling Bob’s receipts or booking Cheryl’s travel, and extending your workday to fit it all in.
Being the office ‘go to’ isn’t a doormat position. It’s a position of privilege – we’re the touchpoint between the team and boss, we’re visible and trusted, and we’re a collaborative colleague. Our contribution to the team isn’t all of the little jobs, it's the big picture objectives we contribute to each and every day.
If you’re finding it hard to strike the balance between transactional and strategic, book a 1:1 mentoring session with Carly, who can discuss the challenges you’re facing and provide clear tangible steps to take forward.