Performance Punishment - An Easy Way to Burnout Your Employees

You might be punishing your best player's performance, and she/he might be about to walk out the door.

It has always struck me how often the top performers of a company, regardless of size, tend to have a higher burden of work compared to their peers. In other words, an employee with superior performance ends up obtaining an increase in their workload. With the aggravation, they can feel that their extra effort is not being recognized, leading to a loss of motivation, and therefore, performance.

Moreover, this situation might lead to the employee's resignation, which impacts the whole working environment of your business, as other employees will have second thoughts about their future with your company. This scenario is a reflection of a team leader with poor people management skills, and usually occurs when:

  1. The manager offsets his or her shortcomings by assigning more work to the employee.
  2. The manager relies on the top performer to carry out the workload of the poor performer teammate. 

In the first case, the employee is recognized by both her/his manager and peers as better than the average performer. However, instead of being promoted, or gaining responsibility inside the organization or team, she/he gets piles of additional work.

Just like in the stock market, we can use the analogy of a treadmill, the speed of which represents the expectations of the manager on the employee’s performance. As the employee keeps outperforming others despite the increasing workload, the speed of the treadmill rises. This analogy is useful as it describes the difficulty to continue to deliver on accelerating expectations without eventually stumbling. Moreover, the manager is putting what is good for the organization ahead of the goals of the employee, who ends up burning out and quitting.

Related: Why Employees Quit Their Job

The second case is when the employee becomes the go-to person. The one the manager and others on the team, look for in order to find a solution or get things done. These employees despite having a full plate, end up getting additional work that weaker employees either cannot or will not do. Often because managers are so concerned with quality and deadlines that they hand work over to someone they can trust and will do a good job. Unfortunately, they don't sometimes see what difficulties the employee goes through. On one hand, the good performer might skip lunch or a break or work late several nights to avoid a backlog or both, while, on the other hand, the poor performer goes home on time.

So unless you want to encourage your employees to be average, or lose your best employees you need to optimize your recruitment process, build a great team, and create a career plan for them.

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