Bear a load, share a burden

Teams form to provide avenues for multiple individuals to support each other. But where is the line between our workload and the workload of others? It is crucial, as team members, to learn how to stick within our responsibilities while also assisting the rest of the team.

Knowing what to be solely responsible for, when to ask for help, or when to assist others can get complicated and sometimes frustrating. Here is a simple way to evaluate team workload.


Whether we realize it or not, most of us tend to think in terms of loads and burdens. A load is just the right amount that an individual can bear on his or her own. It is not overwhelming. It is not too much to maintain. Carrying our own load is good for us and excellent for a team.

Sometimes we ask colleagues for help. That doesn’t mean we always need to. Most of us desire to accomplish our work quickly. The faster we work, the more we can get done, and the sooner we get finished.

When we are task-focused and get stuck on something, our first instinct is to ask someone we believe will have a simple solution. We do this because it’s fast and convenient. We ask, a colleague delivers; boom, task done on to the next.

However, we don’t always realize the cost. We took someone else’s time. Was it necessary? If we regularly ask for help with small things, eventually, the people we ask will get frustrated and no longer want to help. This cycle destroys teams.

Instead, we should ask ourselves, “If I take some extra time to work through this or do some research, can I figure this out on my own?” If the answer is “yes,” take the extra time. Don’t burden a colleague with what you can handle on your own.

Avoiding our load or taking on someone else’s load hinders learning and growing.


Burdens and loads are different. A burden is overwhelming and too heavy for any one person. Typically, individuals are more likely to assist in areas they innately classify as burdens than in situations they deem to be mere loads.

If we are overwhelmed, in a time crunch, or simply just cannot find the answer, we are most likely trying to carry a burden. Team members are more likely and more willing to help in these situations without forming resentments. This is especially true if we can clearly explain our struggle and why it is too much for us.

Remember the Snowmageddon in Atlanta back in 2014? I do! I was stuck on the road for seven hours. But what was shocking was how many people around the city opened their homes up to travelers stuck on the street who just couldn’t make it home. I was one of those people who went to bed that night on a stranger’s couch.

Now, how often would you let a stranger standing outside your house, sleep on your couch for the night? Probably not that often. But the heavier the burden, the more likely others are willing to jump in and help. It’s in our nature.

The same is true for a team. Not saying you need to have a snowmageddon going on for it to be a burden, but I think you get the idea.


Getting these two points right will dramatically change a team:

  1. Carry your load while allowing others to do the same
  2. Ask for help with burdens and help when the burden is on someone else

Teams that consist of individuals who bear a load and share a burden will accomplish more, experience less conflict, and build better relationships.