I can always tell when my coworkers are burned out. They stop coming to work early. In fact, some of them will arrive a few minutes early but wait in their cars, only coming in at the last possible moment.
They are perfectly within their rights to do so, of course, but what that means is the person on the shift they are relieving can’t leave until they arrive. I know personally that when I’ve had a long day, being able to leave even five minutes early is a gift. Because I know this, I try very hard to show up early for others. It’s an easy gift to give.
But I can understand the thought process. “Why should I work 5 minutes for free?” “So and so never comes in early for me. Why should I come in early for him?” “I am tired of giving and getting nothing back.” It’s particularly hard to be generous when the recipient is someone you don’t like.
But that’s when generosity stops being generosity. When it becomes all about “What’s in it for me?” and not a sincere act of kindness without a scorecard, it gets sick and twisted and unhealthy.
If sometimes you get fed up because it seems like you’re being taken advantage of on all sides, consider this: These are the moments when you get to show what you’re truly made of. If your first instinct is to withdraw kindness, then you’ve just done some damage, yes, but not to those around you.
I try to be generous without giving it much thought. Sometimes I struggle with this. Sometimes I have to force myself to be generous in spite of my baser instincts. I know in these situations I’m just going through the motions and being insincere. But I think it’s important to keep up this emotional muscle memory, because I never want to become one of those people who waits in her car until the last possible minute.