Is it possible to be too generous at work?

This post was originally titled, "Generosity: The Silent Killer."

This title makes me laugh and laugh.

Caroline Adams career coach

Because it's RIDICULOUS, right? Right?!

How can generosity be bad?

Well, let me tell you sister...

First, a quick quiz:

  • When was the last time you were generous with others?

  • When was the last time you were generous with yourself?

We tend to think of generosity as giving to others--time, gifts, money, even empathy. Yet we're so stingy with ourselves...

We don't dare ask for the help and support we lavish on others.

We brush off compliments.

We fail to set (or maintain) boundaries because we place the organization's goals ahead of our own.

We work through vacations--or even delay leaving for good--because we feel guilty about the impact on the team.

We put the kids, the spouse, the team, the deadline, the cause, and probably the dog before ourselves.

We push generosity away in all its forms, constantly ceding our personal and professional wants and needs.

Somewhere along the line, we got the impression that generosity to others is noble and good...and generosity to ourselves is greedy and selfish.

True generosity is a two-way street, a balance of give and take. Otherwise, it's not sustainable.

When we give, give, give without ever receiving, soon there's nothing left. Then we're surprised when we end up in a career that doesn't fulfill us, surrounded by people who don't appreciate us, at the bottom of a giant hole filled with resentment.

One-way generosity is a career killer. And a ticket to burnout and unhappiness.

According to Merriam-Webster, the second definition of generosity is "the quality or fact of being plentiful or large." Generosity is about abundance, bounty, plenty.

When we're truly generous, there is enough for EVERYONE, including ourselves. When we give to ourselves as copiously as we give to others, it doesn't take away from anyone else; it actually creates more.

Just like a bank account, you need to have a balance in order to make withdrawals. And the higher your balance, suddenly the more you have to spend on others.

Rather than trying (and failing) to balance work and life, let's balance give and take.

The career you want revolves around give AND take. Yes, you need to provide value. Yes, you need to give without expectation. But you also need to allow others to help you get what you want. You need to replenish your energy. You need to take credit where it's freakin' due.

It's not selfish or greedy to want more in your career; it's generous.

It starts with being generous to yourself. It's as much about what you let in as what you give out.

Now I invoke Megan Rapinoe, since I’m desperate to share the result of my many hours logged on social media gathering backstory and random facts about the US women’s national soccer team.

Rapinoe was asked a puff question about who has the worst goal celebration, and Rapinoe responded with astonishment at people who didn’t bask in the glory of the moment, "When I score, I'm like, 'Give it to me.' This is your moment to shine. This is literally what the game is all about." She closed her eyes and smiled as she spoke, soaking up the love.

This is generosity. Her celebration takes nothing away from the team. In fact, it only adds to the collective. She wins. Her teammates win. The fans win. Women win. Everyone wins.

Your turn. What would happen in your career and life if you turned your generosity on yourself? Share your comments below.

It's literally what the game is all about.

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Author Bio: 

Before becoming a coach, Caroline worked in management consulting and financial services. She's made it her mission to help people grow, contribute, and get wherever they want to go.

Caroline wants women to recognize how much power they truly have to define their careers. The life and career you want really is possible once you have the roadmap. Take the first step by downloading her free guide: 4 steps to take back your life and design a career with purpose.

She’s also a tennis fanatic, aspiring Minimalist, FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) enthusiast, and Aloha Spirit seeker 🤙. She loves to share stories from her unconventional life and career focused on freedom, creativity, fun, health, family, and community. If she can do it, you can, too.