Killing the Star Performer

We all have our “go-to” employee. And yes, we work them more than others, but the real questions are: Is it okay to overwork them? And what affects does it have on the rest of the organization? As with most questions, the answers are “it depends” for both.

Is it okay? Yes, it is ok. There are many tasks you need to have completed, and you need to have people you can trust to do good work and do it quickly. The more people you have that you can put into this category the better. It usually isn’t many, and sometimes it is zero. The key to expecting more of these high performers is to communicate with them. Let them know they are one of the top performers and you need them to understand why you will be asking more of them than others. They need to understand the upside to doing more work.

In my experience, people are fine with doing more work if they know they are appreciated. It’s great to know you are a top performing and is very motivating, the problem becomes when they see they are doing more work but are not getting the appreciation. It is important to reward people in ways they responsive. Take time to understand who these people are and what they want in life and their career.

In addition to communicating with them about the additional work, it is also vital to ensure you don’t get carried away. If every project and other tasks you have go to the same person, they are going to get frustrated. No amount of praise can balance the scale of massive overwork. Additionally, others are going to notice a few things in these situations. First, others in the organization will see you are always giving your star more work and will start to believe you favor them. Second, they will not be pulling as much weight as your star worker. This can lead to boredom, which will only exacerbate the problems they already have with you favoring this one employee. Finally, because of the above, you will be ineffective as a leader and manager. People will disengage if they are not already and it will take months, if not years, to get them to trust you again.

If this is happening to you, its time to have a conversation with your boss or supervisor and let them know you love being valued and given the additional responsibility and trust, but that it is harmful to the team. If your boss isn’t receptive to this type of feedback, try a group approach or get another supervisor to try to talk to them. The consequences of doing nothing will be devastating to the team!

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