This one is for the folks who routinely work during vacation and have trouble delegating work and feel ‘guilty’ taking off any time at all. It’s a pretty exciting syndrome to have, I like to call it Atlas Syndrome because at it’s root the patient believes themselves responsible for holding up the very heavens. Let’s be honest there are sets of circumstances where the sky would fall if certain roles weren’t accessible (e.g., the last technical expert who can work the core systems, CEO, CEO’s coffee courier, etc.,), but it’s hardly as prevalent and dramatic as our Atlases would have us believe.

While it is invigorating to think of oneself so highly, there is a profoundly distrusting flavor to the Atlas Syndrome that makes it wise to avoid. When an Atlas has gained leadership rank their team will feel the weight of their perceived greatness. Unfortunately, this tends to limit the development of confidence and critical thinking in their team, resulting in increased work for the Atlases and in a way fulfilling their exaggerated self-perception.

Of course, the Atlases don’t see the increasing workload as a sign of imbalance, rather a validation of their mandate to hold up the heavens. And how could they see it differently? Once you’ve become delightfully resigned to a perception of immense responsibility, it’s hard to gradually readjust to healthier patterns. Even when Atlases burn out (drop it all and go) they’ve still retained the belief they were holding everything in place.

Don’t be an Atlas, but if you’re afraid you might have started (everyone does to some degree) seek honest appraisal of more experienced colleagues and learn more about their work efforts and contributions. This will help to reduce some of the false inflation you attribute to your own accomplishments and involvement. If you are a leader, I would advise you to begin training yourself to delight in your team’s learning and creativity more than the romanticized version of perfect execution that is the way you would do things.

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