Tech & Work

Talking Shop: Don't overload your good people

Find out how to distribute workloads across your team

Does Superperson work in your shop? You know, the person who never turns down a request for help, who always seems to be in the office, and who tries hard not to look stressed out? (Maybe you’re Superperson in your shop.)

My message this week goes out to every manager to whom Superperson reports: Lighten the load, or you might lose your star employee.

Good people don’t whine, they just disappear
I know a lot of people who love their jobs but hate their workloads. They excel in what they do, and because they excel, more work comes their way. Here’s a classic example: special projects. You’ve got an overachieving employee with a full workload, and you ask that person to take on a “special project.” So the employee gets the special project done by coming in early, staying late, and taking work home.

The employee does such a good job on the special project that it’s no longer a special project—it becomes an ongoing assignment and responsibility. The employee’s thinking, “Gee, I love my work, and being trusted with this extra duty is quite an honor, but…”
  • But I resent the fact that some of my old duties weren’t assigned to someone else (one of the average performers) to make room for this new assignment.
  • But I resent the fact that I’m expected just to absorb the extra work on top of what I’m already doing.
  • But I resent the fact that I’m not getting paid any extra money for doing all this extra work.

Here’s the catch for management: Superperson probably won’t whine about the extra work. Superperson is more likely to look for another job. “It’s never going to get any better,” Superperson will think, “so I’m just going to move on.”

Pay attention to Superpeople
You can’t afford to lose Superpeople. Hiring and retaining average performers and slackers is easy to do; keeping the good people on board requires some maturity and wisdom on the part of company management.

If you can identify one Superperson in your employ, watch for signs of burnout, such as a sudden drop in the number of hours worked or the quality of work. If you’re smart, you’ll let Superperson know you care, make some changes in the workload, award a bonus, a raise, or a promotion—whatever it takes to let Superperson know that you’re aware of the contribution Superperson is making and you want to keep Superperson happy.
Have you ever watched a co-worker or employee go from a super producer to a burned out short-timer, all because of an unreasonable workload? Please share your opinion by posting a comment below or sending me a note.Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff's View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you'll get a bonus of Jeff's picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers. To respond to this article, please post a comment below or send Jeff a note.

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