Coaching Employees to be Resilient Givers with Boundaries

Jun 21, 2017

Often people associate coaching employees with directly effecting revenue or customer satisfaction. Yet there are underlying behaviors that are important to coach on to achieve customer satisfaction and increased revenue.

An example might be the employee that works long hours and is always the first to take on additional responsibilities. This could be viewed as your perfect employee. Unfortunately, this employee most likely gets sick often, even though he/she doesn’t call in sick, getting other team members sick and overall performance suffers because of the illness. In turn this employee is the biggest risk for burning out. When these employees don’t set healthy personal boundaries, their work goals fall short and potentially encounter stress and conflict at home.

Adam Grant and Reb Rebele wrote the article, Beat Generosity Burnout, stating that “Selflessness at work leads to exhaustion-and often hurts the very people you want to help.”

Adam Grant also published a book called Give and Take, talking about how generous “givers” succeed in ways that lift others up instead of cutting them down and add more value to organizations than selfish “takers” or “matchers” do. They “key” is to be a giver with boundaries. When they researched selfless giving teachers they found that their students performed at a lower level than givers with boundaries. I find the selfless givers to be two fold in the sense that they are:

  • Burning out
  • Holding teams back from producing at their highest levels
  • Being bad examples
  • Trying to be experts in all areas


The next piece is that they aren’t coaching team members to be givers with boundaries so the employees, in turn don’t live the above traits.

How do we break the generosity burnout cycle? We pay close attention to the selfless givers and coach them on healthy boundaries, after all, when you are a true leader you are developing leaders. This can look like the following; noticing when team members are burning out and give them extra time off for their needs, talking with them about self-care; healthy eating habits, exercise, 6-8 hours of sleep a night and surrounding themselves with people who build them up.

Industry leaders are prone to generosity burnout in the hospitality industry of service. I have found that selfless givers are attracted to the hospitality industry because they love to give and this industry can take from all directions. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Personally, I feel that millennials are getting a bad rap because they don’t want to live this life style, yet as far as I am concerned, we as a culture need to rethink how we are being selfless givers and shift to givers with boundaries. There is a good amount of research that shows how much more effective teams are when they are working 40 hours a week instead of 60 hours a week. How can we as service providers give to our guests or coworkers when we don’t have anything left to give? Imagine what your team would look like if they only worked 40 hours a week, were healthy, able to spend time with family and friends, exercise and get a full night’s sleep. The chances are that they would jump to help the guest and their coworkers instead of being resentful and burned out.


The next step is coaching employees to be resilient. There are very few individuals who live a life and don’t experience some type of grief or struggle with challenging customer interactions. We experience grief any time we go through change. There are changes in jobs, our homes, relationships, technology, etc. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant share in their book Option B, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery:

  • Personalization – the belief that we are at fault
  • Pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
  • Permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.

This self-talk can spiral employees into very dark places. If they can shift their self-talk into believing that they are not entirely at fault, that it won’t affect all areas of their life and that it won’t last forever, they recover at a faster rate. Everyone has their own timeline when it comes to grief and their own map of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Some skip over one area and others get stuck in another area for a longer amount of time. As I like to say, “Everyone has their own journey.” It isn’t to be judged are rushed. This is where self-compassion comes in. If an employee is grieving and something triggers them, causing them to cry, they should be able to go to a place where they feel safe and let it all out. Employees are humans and emotional people. I was once told that I would never be promoted within a company because I was too emotional. At the time my self-talk had a hay day and I beat myself up over being too emotional. I was having health issues as the company was aware of and my hormones were all over the place, yet after I left this company, I embraced my emotions and now I am grateful for being emotional. When we can recognize that some people’s ideas of imperfections are part of what makes us who we are, we can have self-compassion and are able to recover from hardships quicker.


Sheryl Sandberg shares in her book, Lean In, for soldiers returning from war in Afghanistan and Iraq, those who were kind to themselves showed significant declines in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She states that self-compassion is associated with greater happiness and satisfaction, fewer emotional difficulties and less anxiety. We aren’t talking about brushing off situations like they aren’t our responsibility, but not negatively self-talking ourselves into a hole where we damage our future. Adam Grant’s research has shown that offering support to employees through personal hardships helps employees become more committed to their companies.

Sheryl also talks about how to help your team embrace learning from failure. She uses the Marines as an example of having debriefs after missions. They see failure as learning opportunities and it allows them to remove the personal connection. When you are open to criticism you usually get more feedback, which you can take to better yourself.

In order to build resilient teams as a leader it is recommended to do the following:

  • Coach your team on self-compassion
  • Have team debriefs on company failures embracing the opportunity for growth
  • Encourage team members to focus on three areas of gratitude a day


One of my favorite clients shared with me that he felt his responsibility as a leader was to support his employees with their personal growth. If we all had this mindset, the world would be a beautiful place.