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4 Telltale Signs that Guilt is Interfering with Your Work


Too many of us try to motivate ourselves to work harder with shame and blame. We guilt ourselves into picking up extra shifts, working our bodies past the point of exhaustion, and even skipping vacations. Here’s the good news: this isn’t the path to increased productivity, and it’s certainly not the path to self-love. In fact, this approach NEVER works long-term. You may be able to push yourself for a little while with negative self-talk, but burnout is waiting just around the corner.

Here are 4 signs that you’re using guilt against yourself at work (plus tips for ditching this unhelpful habit):

1. You don’t take breaks. 

Maybe you’re worried your coworkers will think you’re slacking. Or that if you take some time for yourself, it’ll be harder to get back to work. Whatever your reasoning behind avoiding breaks, it’s not serving you. Countless studies – including this one conducted by Desktime – have found that taking short breaks throughout the day is critical to boosting focus and productivity. According to the study, the best performing employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.

2. You don’t like asking for help.  

If you think you should be able to manage everything on your own, you probably struggle with reaching out when you’re feeling overwhelmed. But asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s actually imperative to your professional growth and development. You’ll learn the skills you need to excel at work far more quickly if you’re comfortable asking for support when you need it. Ask more questions, seek feedback from seasoned coworkers, and find a mentor to guide you. You’re not in it alone, and you won’t succeed if you try to be.

3. You’re comparing yourself to others.   

Being competitive is only human. But if you’re using others’ success as an excuse to hate on yourself, you’re going to stay stuck. Not only is comparing and despairing terrible for your self-esteem, it also makes it impossible to make progress. Because when you’re convinced that everyone’s doing better than you, you’re terrified to make a mistake – and you stop taking risks to learn, grow, and excel at your job. Understand that nobody has it all figured out, stop obsessing over others’ accomplishments, and stay focused on your own growth.

4. You’re scared to take time off.  

If the idea of going on vacation sets off your guilt alarm, it’s time to reconsider your outlook on rest. In so many words: time off is non-negotiable. Every human needs it, period. In fact, research shows that in places where people tend to take more vacation, employees are way more productive. So you should never feel bad about taking advantage of your PTO. You’ll come back feeling refreshed, focused, and ready to kill it at work.

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