The handover procrastination syndrome and how to overcome it

The handover procrastination syndrome is a syndrome where one feels that it is impossible to handover their current tasks to the next person because of an utter sense of responsibility. You worry that you might be passing on unresolved problems, and therefore hope to minimise the hassle before handing over. Ironically this procrastination created even more stress to the person as there seems to be no escape from the piles of responsibilities that should have shifted place long ago.

Since the past two months I have been having the handover procrastination syndrome. I was sent over to another department, however I was not able to fully handover my work to the next colleague. I was holding on to some of it up to the point that my lupus was triggered.

There was no easy resolution to the problems why I hesitated to handover. There were massive resignations and career breaks by colleagues at all levels, causing more work to be spread to the last few standing. I tried my best to help to manage the resourcing issue, up to the point that it was of least concern to the incoming colleague taking over. However due to the nature of my work, inevitably there will be some other issues surfacing over time which could not have been predicted or prevented upfront.

When I sat down to discuss the handover with a number of colleagues this week, we thrashed out issues and their potential resolutions. We agree that the resolutions are not exactly stellar, but those are the possibilities and the lesser of evils. I still could not completely handover the stuffs, however for the first time, I had a clear view on the endgame : Someone else has to do it.

Based on this two months’ long contemplation and experience on handing over, I have the following realisations and advice for handover:

(1) Prepare a handover pack

There needs to be a laundry list of all the tasks that needs handover, all relevant information and the difficulties that require immediate or proposed resolutions. Review the options and scenarios that you might face, and note them down. Ideally the information should be in a pack so that it could be handed over easily should the next incoming person also leaves. A tad of pessimism but we have to think of what happens if this did not work out. We would not want to spend another couple of days to think it through when we have to handover to the next person.

(2) Adjust your attitude and energy when you handover

Although this might be obvious when you are not involved in the job, but many a times there is an oversight on the impact this might have during the handover process. Sometimes the handover process is dreaded because in the first place you dread the upcoming job. You have been in the role so long that you know all the problems that arise with the role. You dread that you have to pass it over to another person, and therefore you feel a sense of responsibility to clean it up as much as possible before handing over. Of course this is over the presumption that you are a responsible employee who has the best of intentions of not passing on pain to the next person.

Here’s a mental hack on how to overcome the dread.

Think of it this way. Since the ending that we envisage would be ‘Someone else has to do it’, the better scenario for that person would be to know as much information as early as possible. The matters that you dread, may not be an issue after all. Sometimes hanging to the same problem year to year gives you the impression that this is an inherent issue that you have to swallow every year. However this might be far from the truth. From a fresh person’s perspective this issue could have been resolved in another manner. Therefore I realised that instead of holding on to the problem, it might actually help to inform and discuss with the incoming person. Let them feel that you are in the boat together with them, and set boundaries on what are the limitations on how much you could handhold them.

Tell yourself that you will help in a way with the best intentions. You are not making a quick exit, your handover will include a well-thought proposed resolutions to the matters that they will be about to face.

(3) Choose one stress over the other – which is the lesser evil?

Which brings me to my last point.

Sometimes it is easy to empathise, and we feel that we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. We feel the need to ensure that we have managed everything before we could handover. I realised about how arrogant that thought it is in the face of changes in this world. Change is the only constant. We could try to anticipate challenges and try our best to manage it. However the longer we sit with the problems, the more time it is for changes to harbour.

There is definitely stress when you think about the handover process, and all the problems that has to be passed on to the next person. But at the same time you will face the same stress too if you carry on with the problems, and thinking on your own how to resolve it. It is a lose-lose situation since the incoming person would have been made known of these challenges at the eleventh hour, and you are stuck with stress on how to break the news to them. So if you are going to do one of the evils, choose the one that deals with short-term pain.

It has not been an easy journey handing over.

Handover was easier to me when I was first diagnosed with lupus. I just broke down and called my boss. Then I was swiftly removed from my key responsibilities so that I could take a month off to manage my lupus. When I am better I have guilt where I felt that I could take on a bit more responsibilities since some other people covered for me when I was not well.

Then I slowly started to take on more responsibilities than I could necessarily handle. People also started to forget that I have lupus since I have managed it so well for the past two years. I did not want to be a drama queen, crying helplessly hoping for people to help me out. I felt that the very act of channeling emotions are exhausting, and acting on the problem actually takes less energy than crying boohoo to other people. But sometimes it is important to lay down the lines. Lupus seems to do the cut-off pretty well. It has a tipping point on when stress will start to trigger it, and once it reaches that point, there was no room to negotiate. On the other hand, it also means that there was room to negotiate before the tipping point. But there needs to be a self-awareness on when situations causing stress is piling, and when to lay down the boundaries.

Do you have problems dealing with your corporate job while having lupus? Would love to hear from you how you dealt with it.


Author: Li

This is a blog about the journey with my friend - Lupus, 500 days and counting after I was diagnosed. After I passed the initial stage of acceptance and moving on, it has been well so far. Whilst I have a full time job, I am also a writer for hire and could write just about anything. Contact me if you see anything that you like!

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