Turning Coworkers into Accountability Partner

Sometimes, it’s hard to admit that you’ve reached your limit and need to take a break, especially when working in a virtual environment. Maybe you frantically do more and more in an attempt to keep up, until a big mistake brings your efforts screeching to a halt. Or perhaps you stop only when you get sick. Or maybe you just give up.

Here are a few signals that your remote workload may be causing you to feel the beginnings of burnout:

  • Mental or physical exhaustion
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness
  • Disengagement or isolation
  • Higher sensitivity to feedback
  • Avoidance of everyday situations, especially your least favorite work tasks
  • Snapping at co-workers, customers, or family members
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive issues
  • Engaging in angry outbursts
  • Feeling resentful

One way to combat this is to get an accountability partner. This person should be someone you trust deeply within your organization and with whom you can share your frustrations as well as celebrations. I cannot stress enough the importance of an accountability buddy, mentor, or best friend at work. In Permission to Feel, Marc Brackett stresses that “social support has been demonstrated to be a highly effective buffer against the adverse effects of stress, due to its influence on promoting healthy behaviors.” Brackett goes on to point out that social support can affect your health.

Sometimes when we get stuck in our own head, it’s hard to see clearly. Your accountability partner is there to challenge you and help you become aware of your responses to stress and the ways you manage or fail to manage it. Having built-in support can help keep you on track with setting your boundaries and your limits. A partner can also help you determine what steps to take when you’re beginning to feel burned out, whom to approach, and how to approach them.

That is why it is ideal to choose someone from within your organization. They can be a “best friend at work.” If you are unable to engage a dependable buddy in your workplace, you can find or choose someone from outside your company, a trusted friend or mentor.

Humans are wired for social connection. The happiness chemical, oxytocin is released when we connect with a close friend or trusted confidante. We just feel better. Not only that, being close to others pays off in other ways as well. Bill Gates, in fact, has stated that the feeling of connection and belonging is critical to his success.

In a report entitled “Why We need Best Friends at Work,” Gallup found that 63% of people who have a best friend in their workplace are twice as engaged in their work. Otherwise, without a colleague in the company to commiserate with, work can seem lonely and isolating.

You might consider doing role play exercises with your partner. For instance, if you need practice talking to your manager about re-assigning excess projects or asking for something else you need or want, you could play out the scenario with your accountability buddy so you will be better prepared for the actual conversation with your manager.

One way to work with your accountability partner is to set a regular meeting day with the added commitment that you’ll be available for each other on an as-needed basis. Whomever you choose, make sure that person has the time and the capability to work with you.

Think about your ideal accountability buddy. Ask yourself: “Do I need someone just to listen and offer gentle suggestions, or someone who will challenge me to stretch?” Think about what type of schedule will work for you, keeping in mind that your potential partners may have limited availability and you may have to bend to their schedule.

It is critical to be respectful of other people’s time. If you think this person is very busy, I recommend putting a limit on the number of meetings and the amount of time for each in the request. For example, you could ask for four meetings of 30–60 minutes each.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People like helping other people and have gotten help themselves along the way. If they are not available, they will let you know. Enlisting help from a coach or accountability partner is one of the best ways you can grow your career and understand what steps you need to get there. Go for it. You’ll be glad you did.

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