What is generosity burnout and how to avoid it?

Generosity burnout refers to the state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion resulting from consistently giving to others without proper self-care.

Generosity burnout can occur when someone gives too much of themselves, whether it be their time, money or energy, without taking enough time for self-care and rest. This can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of depletion and resentment towards the people who are being helped.

Generosity Burnout was first coined in a 2017 essay published by Harvard Business Press, Wharton professor of management Adam Grant and researcher Reb Rebele as “generosity fatigue.”

If you’re a Helper who goes above and beyond to help others and strives for greatness, you probably love being the one on whom everyone counts and whose additional effort, devotion, and contribution are appreciated. However, issues might arise when you say “yes” to too many things at once or when it’s assumed that you will.

These high expectations from coworkers and even your boss may quickly lead to mental, bodily, and emotional stress. The researchers cautioned that if great extra milers, frequently relied on and expected to take on other jobs and their own, were overburdened by demands, their worth would diminish. Today, we will discuss the causes and dangers of generosity burnout and how to avoid them immediately.

Are you suffering from Generosity Burnout?

If a person is going through any of the symptoms below, one should take immediate action to avoid it. According to Grant and Rebele, the main symptoms of generosity burnout are:

Lack of engagement

One may discover that they are so preoccupied with meeting everyone else’s needs that they no longer have time for the people who matter most to you, such as your team members, clients, or even family members. They may grow irritated if you don’t engage with them.

Physical and emotional burnout

When there are frequent demands on your time, generosity fatigue can emerge. It’s possible that you’re being tugged in too many directions simultaneously. This will most certainly affect the quality of your daily job and cause exhaustion, tension, and even illness.

Resentment and poor morale

You may begin to hate your coworkers’ demands, and expectations, especially if saying “no” to them is difficult for you. If you don’t handle your resentment, it will damage your performance, morale, and emotional well-being.

Poor performance in others

Other team members may exploit your generosity and become overly reliant on you, leading to complacency and inefficiency. If you are absent or decide to quit the organisation, this might also raise the danger of the team’s work being delayed or of declining quality.

10 Proven Steps to Avoid Generosity Burnout

Here are ten research-based ways to avoid burnout:

Always set some Boundaries

Setting boundaries is essential to avoid burnout. Generosity burnout happens when someone constantly gives without taking the time to refill their own emotional cup. Being generous and helping others is a noble trait, but when we go beyond our limits and give too much, we can end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and even resentful towards the people we are trying to help.

According to Adam Grant and Reb Rebelle, “Those who contribute to the organisations (who provide the most direct help, take the most initiative and make the greatest proposals) across sectors secure their own lives to work for their very own goals.”

Figure out where you can offer help that is unique and meaningful

If you’re a great writer, don’t offer to teach someone how to use Excel macros simply because you’ve done it before. That’s definitely something they could acquire from several other individuals, and it doesn’t play to your particular talents.

Help Proactively rather than Reactively

Proactively assisting allows you to better manage your time, effort, and resources. You don’t have to respond immediately to requests or feel pressured into accepting them; instead, you can determine if, when, and how you want to give based on your availability and capability.

Proactive support allows you to align your assistance with your personal priorities and values. You can focus on areas that align with your talents, interests, and passions if you take the initiative. This alignment increases your sense of satisfaction and prevents you from spreading yourself too thin by accepting duties that do not align with your strengths.

Be Careful about Scope Creep

If you permit scope creep to occur, you may find yourself perpetually overburdened with ever-increasing demands on your time and energy. This can result in exhaustion as you struggle to meet unreasonable expectations while neglecting your own health. By understanding the scope and limitations of your time, you can proactively manage the scope of your obligations.

Setting distinct expectations from the outset allows you to establish boundaries and effectively communicate them to others. It enables you to specify the duration, frequency, and level of participation you are willing to undertake. By avoiding scope creep, you can avoid overextending yourself and ensure that you have the capacity to fulfil your obligations without sacrificing your own requirements.

Additionally, being aware of scope creep enables you to prioritise your efforts. You can determine whether a specific request is consistent with your objectives, values, and available resources. This enables you to make informed decisions regarding where to invest your time and energy, allowing you to provide genuine and meaningful assistance without distributing yourself too thinly.

Scale and amplify your help when possible

If you receive dozens of requests for a specific type of assistance each week, try putting up a Zoom meeting to assist everyone at once. If you receive the same questions a lot, make a FAQ sheet to distribute, or ask someone you help to pay it forward by sharing what they learned from you.

Take the 5-minute favour.

Can you get someone close to their objective in 5 minutes or less by introducing them to a person, article, or another resource that may be useful to them? (Civitas is an excellent example of a five-minute favour!)

Prioritise your commitments

According to Adam, family comes first, followed by pupils, coworkers, and finally everyone else. He can tell when to say yes and when to say no because he has that internal hierarchy. Please make your own priority list and use it as a guide when someone requests assistance.

You may or may not have an excellent “taker” radar as a donor, but you should learn to recognise those who would drain you without paying it forward.

Increased tension, anger, frustration, and other symptoms might occur. Pay special attention to resentment. If you answer yes to a request for assistance, will you resent the person or the project? If this is the case, you should think about declining. The expectation of resentment is an indication that you’re approaching burnout.


Generosity burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by continuously giving to others without practising self-care. To avoid it, setting boundaries, prioritising self-care, learning to say no when needed, seeking support from others, and recognising the importance of self-preservation are essential steps. Balancing acts of generosity with self-care practices can help prevent generosity burnout.

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Hi, My name is Kartik. I have expertise in Technical and Social Domains. I love to write articles that could benefit people and the community.

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