Interesting question but how could you ever care too much? Isn’t caring what our emotionally-detached, “all-about-me” society needs a lot more of today? While I agree that our world can benefit from more people that care, I’m actually talking about when you care “toooooooooo” much, to the point that you care more than the people you’re trying to help.
Besides creating frustration for you, caring “too” much can also carry a downside especially in the workplace. I should know.
The Downside of Caring “Too” Much
I admit it, when it comes to being a leadership consultant – I am over-the-top obsessive. About everything. The bottom line is that I love what I do, I know what I’m doing and I care.
Fueling my “care” quotient is the good fortune to have worked with over 40 different organizations helping them focus on Organizational Health and Performance. I’ve been both an integral part of their triumphs and their failures.
Oddly, it’s this “in the trenches” experience that can get in my way. My “been there, done that” background allows me to more readily see the potential pitfalls, sometimes long before the organizations, themselves. In fact, I frequently find myself in a scene from the movie, Thelma and Louise. You know, the one right before they go over the cliff. I’m the “unseen extra” trying to help them avoid it, put on the brakes, or advise them to go in a different direction.
But it’s all for naught if my organizations don’t see it, or don’t care as much as I do about their “impending doom.” Regardless of how much evidence I might be able to provide. Regardless of how many different case studies I can present that will show their decisions will lead to an unhealthy situation. Regardless of how “good” the solution might be that I’m offering. None of that matters if my clients do not care as much as I about what I believe is the “right” thing to do.
A Hard Lesson
It took over a decade for me to finally learn this valuable, but difficult, lesson. I have to accept, as you do, that sometimes your audience will not care as much as you. And your extra effort to help them “see the light” will only result in pent-up frustration that hurts you, not them.
Think about it. Have you ever been in a situation where you often wondered “Why are they NOT getting the importance of my point of view?” Or “How can they NOT see what I’m seeing?”
The bottom-line is . . . if they don’t, then they don’t. There’s nothing more you can do than re-calibrate and re-assess.
You might even need to let go, maybe completely. Caring beyond what you need to isn’t good for anyone.
Signs of Caring “Too” Much
So how do you know if you might be “caring too much?” Here are some signals:
- You’ve communicated the same message at least 3 different times, in 3 different ways, and they still don’t show any sign of buy-in or commitment. The hard pill to swallow is that your audience might hear you and understand you, but they either don’t care or aren’t ready to do what you are recommending.
There’s nothing else to do but let go. Be patient. Try to find common ground. But do not beat a dead horse. As the saying goes, you can “lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”
- You feel a sense of frustration and anxiety but your audience doesn’t. Sometimes the best indicator of whether or not you care too much is that your blood pressure is the highest one in the room! This is when you need to really analyze if what you’re stressing about is really worth it.
If you answer “yes” after giving your blood pressure and emotions time to settle, then it might be time to re-strategize your message and expectations. But this time, keep calm and keep perspective. Anxiety and frustration results in zero positive progress.
- People avoid you. Yes, it can happen. Sometimes, our natural passion in an area can be so overwhelming or intimidating that people stop communicating or reaching out. Even worse, they may no longer include you in critical meetings.
- Your bias for someone or something may be clouding your judgment. Let’s face it, we can become so loyal and think so favorably of someone or something that our judgment can become clouded. It can even impact our decisions and actions, or lack thereof. I’ve been the culprit of wanting someone to become a success so badly that I lose objectivity. I overlook the errors that everyone else, who is not as passionately “clouded” as I am, sees. And, in extreme cases, I have denied everyone else’s “probably correct judgment” to rationalize my own cloudy judgment. Reflecting back, I now know they were right and I was wrong.
If this is occurring, you might be caring too much about something that others don’t deem equally important. Ask for a one-on-one with some of your key partners. Be willing to be a little vulnerable and seek their council on what you can tweak. The goal is to demonstrate your objectivity to care “less” about what’s getting in the way . . . and “more” for what’s good for the majority.
What’s the learning? Bias and loyalty will absolutely result in you caring too much and cloud your judgment. Objectivity and facts must be the guide, not loyalty and bias. Especially around business and work related decisions. It’s easy to say, but very difficult to do. Seek objective and credible help if you can’t overcome your own bias.
My Caring Challenges to You
Your leadership challenge as an executive: Care more for the good of the whole versus the good of one individual.
Your leadership challenge as an employee: Make sure what you “really, really” care about aligns with what your boss and/or upper management believes. If not, calibrate and adjust accordingly.
Please recognize that my advice is NOT to stop caring or to care ONLY about what everyone else believes. Let me be clear, progress needs rebels.
I’m simply saying that sometimes we can futilely care more than others, to the point, that it impedes our judgment and/or productivity. My advice is to become self-aware of these situations and learn to recognize, accept and recalibrate before it becomes a problem for you, or others.