“Why do you care so much?” “Stop trying so hard.” You may have heard this from a well-meaning colleague or, even worse, from your own boss. But why would someone want you to care less?
This type of response generally comes after you ask a question or suggest a new way to do something. And it is often related to another common response, “We have never done it like that.”
If you hear it often enough, you might start to ponder your own motivation. You may think, “Why do I care so much anyways? Maybe I should go with the flow and stop trying to change things. It is too hard to keep running into that invisible force of no. Maybe I should just care a little less.”
Instead of giving into self-doubt, your next thought should be, “Not yet.”
Hear this — it is good to care deeply about your work. So if you are being told not to care so much, watch out. This is a warning sign that something is wrong at your company.
Your manager may feel threatened by your effort to upend the status quo or think you have ulterior motives. Or they may be trying to protect you from getting bruised in a hostile environment. Whatever the reason, the culprit is organizational dysfunction. And the problem is not you — it is them.
You and your boss should always care more.
This is because lovable companies find smart people with skills and ambitions and set them free to achieve. These team members are top contributors, and they are not afraid to put in the time and effort needed to help the company succeed. These are people just like you. (If this sounds appealing to you, you can read more about lovable companies in my bestselling new book Lovability.)
And besides, anyone who tells you to care less does not understand your goals or your drive towards excellence. They do not get you.
If you have an intrinsic desire to be great and a passion for helping your company to be great as well, then of course you are going to try your hardest. There is no other way that you can operate.
This is why you should never care less. It would mean becoming complacent, content to do what you and the company did yesterday, and the next, and the day after that. Caring less would mean ignoring all those positive impulses and constantly swatting away your own great ideas when they arrive. Sure, you might spare yourself the emotional investment, the late nights, the occasional frustrations. But at what cost?
If you ever reach the point of caring less, it is likely that you will no longer care at all. You will be on your way out, or you will be looking for a new job.
And since you are reading this post, I bet you find joy in hard work, smashing goals, and setting new ones. You want to be better and help everyone around you become better too. This quality is something to be celebrated, not squelched. In fact, your boss should strive to find more people just like you and work to retain them.
So go ahead and keep giving it your all, the only way you know how. But do not get caught up in the undertow of dysfunction or let the naysayers wear you down. Keep your head up and your eyes peeled for an opportunity to make a difference in your organization — or, if necessary, somewhere else.
What do you say when someone tells you to “care less?”