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Do you feel guilty when people ask for help and you’re too busy to assist them?

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Do you feel guilty when people ask for help and you’re too busy to assist them?
  • Not at all. I have my priorities straight: 7.8%
  • A little. I like helping but can’t help everyone: 47.1%
  • A fair amount. I feel like I’m letting them down if I don’t: 36.7%
  • Tremendously. I’ll go out of my way to help to avoid the guilt: 8.4%

Feeling guilty. Many of you feel some sense of guilt when someone requests assistance and you don’t have time to help them. It’s a natural feeling. If you never give in to the guilt, it builds up and makes you feel bad. You also risk a reputation of being someone who doesn’t help others. The other extreme is helping too frequently and stressing yourself out because you help others at the expense of your own work or your time off. Try setting limits for yourself and for others. Limit the number of additional tasks you’ll take on. Learn to say “no” or to defer assistance. Many times a simple “I can’t help right now but I can get to it in a few days” can either buy you the breathing room you need or get the person to find an alternate means of fulfilling their assistance request.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”