By Anja van den Berg
High performers hold great value for any company, being 400% more productive than average performers, according to the Journal of Personnel Psychology. Companies will lose much of this value if they don’t take deliberate action to protect their high performers from burnout.
A five-year study in the UK, published by Personnel Today, found that the mental health of 20% of the top-performing leaders of UK businesses is affected by corporate burnout.
Don’t be tempted to blame burnout on the high performers themselves, warns Matt Plummer, a strategy and management consultant, and corporate coach.
“After all, the stereotype is that these overachievers say yes to more work even when they’re already at capacity, right?” Plummer continues. “They routinely put work first, cancelling personal engagements to finish the job.”
While such habits may be partially to blame, this isn’t the full story.
“In my experience, many companies and leaders engage in three common practices, often unknowingly, that make top performers even more likely to burn out: they put high performers on the hardest projects, they use high performers to compensate for weaker team members, and they ask high performers to help on many small efforts unrelated to their work.”
Plummer says that employers and leaders should look to three strategies to help them support their high performers for the long term:
- Let high performers occasionally pick their projects. High performers generally are very motivated by the work. Yet, they don’t regularly get the option to do the projects they care most about unless it happens to also be the hardest project available, or unless they agree to do it on top of their normal work. Letting them choose some of their projects reconnects them with the reason they are excited to do their job – something that can get lost in the throes of burnout.
- Create high-performing pairs. High performers routinely find themselves separated from those they most closely relate to and enjoy working with. This happens for obvious reasons, but surrounding them with low performers increases their workload, saps their morale and limits their development. Pairing two high performers of a similar level can help distribute this added weight and improve high performers’ experience without leaving some teams with no high performers.
- Keep track of additional demands on their time. Demands unrelated to core work are unsuspected drivers of burnout because they may feel insignificant and it’s hard to keep track of their aggregate effect. As a leader and manager, it’s your job to balance your team’s capacities with their priorities.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2018/06/how-are-you-protecting-your-high-performers-from-burnout
Wiley Online Library: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2011.01239.x
Personnel Today: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:99tlVb6JyY0J:https://www.personneltoday.com/pr/2017/05/corporate-burnout-affecting-the-mental-health-of-20-percent-of-top-performers-in-uk-businesses/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us