Why being a high performer is a curse?

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Are you the high-achieving type? Do your colleagues rely on you to get the job done, no matter how tight the deadline is? And are you starting to regret that being a high performer is causing you stress?

If this sounds like your life story, then you might be asking yourself a lot of questions about performance pressure and expectations. You might be wondering whether high performance is really a blessing or a curse. Whether at the end of it all will all the hard work be worth it.

It’s an interesting question and one that just about everyone in the workplace should take some time to consider. After all, many of the most successful people have achieved a balance between their workload and preserving their mental health. However, in the fast pace world, we live in today, it won’t be an easy feat. In this article, we will explore what it means to be a high performer and how we can ensure that our success does not come at too high of a cost.

What Is Performance Punishment?

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you outperformed your peers? However, the reward of hard work is only to be given more tasks and responsibilities. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “Performance Punishment,” a term coined by business coach Josh Gordon. Performance Punishment occurs when high performers are given additional work as either a reward or a penalty, often at the expense of their personal well-being and work/life balance.

This type of workplace dynamic can be particularly damaging because it puts the high performer in an uncomfortable situation. They must either accept additional tasks and risk burning out or else reject the offer and feel like they’re not living up to their potential.

Performance Punishment can be especially tricky because it’s not always clear whether the employer is trying to reward or punish the employee for their high performance. It can also lead to resentment between team members when those who don’t meet performance expectations are not subject to the same additional workload.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that regardless of how hard you work. It’s essential that you also make time for yourself in order to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

How and Why High Performers Are Given Extra Work

High-performing employees are often the pride of an organization, with their exceptional skills, dedication, and ability to achieve remarkable results. While it’s crucial to recognize and reward these employees, there’s a fine line between appreciation and burdening them with an excessive workload. There are several reasons why high-performing employees may be assigned additional responsibilities:

  1. Proven Track Record: High performers have demonstrated their ability to excel in their roles and achieve outstanding results. This can lead managers to believe that these employees can handle more work without compromising quality or efficiency.
  2. Dependability: With their reputation for reliability and consistency, high performers are often seen as dependable assets. Managers may feel more confident assigning critical or challenging projects to these employees. They know that they can trust them to deliver.
  3. Manager’s Bias: Managers may subconsciously or consciously favor high performers. Assigning them more work under the assumption that their capabilities are limitless. This bias can be detrimental to both the employee and the organization. Since it fails to consider the potential consequences of performance punishment.
  4. Limited Resources: In some cases, organizations may operate under limited resources or tight budgets. In times like these, they would rely heavily on high-performing employees to fill the gaps. This can lead to an excessive workload on these individuals, unintentionally causing performance punishment.
  5. Recognition and Reward Systems: High performers are given extra work as a form of recognition or reward for exceptional performance. However, this can backfire if the employee begins to feel overwhelmed or burned out.

The Extra Burden on High Performers

While it’s essential to recognize and reward top talent. Constantly assigning additional work to high performers can have several negative consequences.

  1. Burnout: Continuously piling work on an employee can lead to burnout — a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion. Overworked employees may experience a decline in their well-being, with symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and reduced productivity.
  2. Disengagement: Feeling overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities, high-performing employees may become disengaged, which can result in a decrease in work quality and productivity.
  3. Decreased Job Satisfaction: High performers may start to feel overwhelmed and unsupported as their workload increases. As a result, they may become less satisfied with their jobs, which can lead to disengagement or even turnover.
  4. Diminished Performance: Ironically, performance punishment can have the opposite effect of its intention. By overworking high performers, their ability to complete tasks efficiently and effectively can be compromised. This can lead to a decrease in overall performance and productivity.
  5. Resentment: Perceiving unfair treatment, high performers might start to resent their managers and colleagues. This can create an unhealthy work environment, impacting morale and team cohesion.

Signs That You’re Experiencing Performance Punishment

Feel like you’re constantly working, but never actually getting ahead? It might be performance punishment — when high performers are awarded more work, often for the same amount of pay, it can lead to burnout and feelings of being unappreciated.

Here are some signs that you might be experiencing performance punishment:

Working irregular or excessively long hours

This usually happens when there is a constant stream of work assigned to the high performer, but no extra resources or staff to help out.

Unwillingness to take a vacation.

Even if you are able to take leave, there’s an underlying feeling of guilt because someone else will have to pick up your slack in your absence.

lack of recognition or appreciation for your contributions.

High performers can often feel overlooked and undervalued because their hard work is taken for granted or goes unnoticed by their superiors.


Having too many roles and responsibilities at once and not enough time to do it all properly. You might be stretched thin in terms of your duties and given too many tasks within a short time frame, which can lead to stress and overwhelm as you try to juggle it all.


Feeling constantly exhausted and drained from overworking yourself day after day with no end in sight. You may also feel guilty or inadequate if you’re unable to meet your own expectations or complete all the tasks assigned to you on time..

The Consequences of Performance Punishment

Performance punishment can hurt not only the high-performing employees but the entire organization in several ways:

  1. Loss of Top Talent: Continued performance punishment can drive high performers to seek other opportunities, causing the organization to lose valuable talent. This can create gaps in knowledge and productivity, which can be costly to replace.
  2. Decreased Team Morale: When high performers become less satisfied or leave the organization, it can affect the overall morale and motivation of the remaining team members.
  3. Reduced Overall Performance: As previously mentioned, performance punishment can lead to a reduction in productivity for both the individual and the organization. This can ultimately hurt the bottom line and hinder organizational growth.

Examples of Performance Punishment

In the world of work, high performers are often hailed as the backbone of an organization, with their exceptional skills and dedication propelling businesses to new heights. However, performance punishment remains a pervasive, yet seldom-discussed, reality for many high-performing employees. To shed light on this phenomenon, we delve into three real-life examples showcasing the detrimental effects of performance punishment on individuals and organizations.

Example 1: The Overburdened Project Manager

Rachel, a talented project manager, consistently delivered projects on time and within budget. Her exceptional organizational skills and attention to detail earned her recognition from her supervisors, but it also led to an excessive workload. Soon, Rachel found herself managing multiple high-stakes projects simultaneously, with little to no support from her team.

As the workload mounted, Rachel experienced burnout, making mistakes she never made before, and causing project deadlines to slip. Eventually, her declining performance was noticed by management, leading to an honest conversation about her workload.

Example 2: The Customer Service Superstar

James was known for his outstanding customer service skills. He was regarded as the go-to person for resolving complex customer issues and was regularly praised for his ability to turn unhappy customers into loyal advocates. However, this recognition led James’ manager to assign him an increasing number of challenging cases, believing he could easily handle the extra work.

Before long, James began to struggle with the constant stream of difficult customers, and his once-stellar performance began to falter. He felt that he was being penalized for his abilities rather than rewarded, bringing about a decline in job satisfaction.

Example 3: The Multitasking Marketing Guru

Emma, a marketing specialist, was known for her ability to juggle multiple tasks and consistently deliver results. Her manager viewed her as a dependable employee and regularly assigned her new projects and responsibilities. However, this additional workload began to take its toll on Emma, affecting her ability to balance her professional and personal life.

How to Maintain Your Well-Being as a High Performer

You’re likely familiar with the concept of “high-performance punishment” if you have a job where you put in extra effort, and then your boss rewards you with more work. And it’s easy to think that being a high performer is a blessing and a curse — especially when it comes to your well-being.

Understand the Difference Between Motivation and Stress

The first step to maintaining well-being is understanding the difference between motivation and stress. Having goals and ambition is great, but pushing yourself too hard can quickly spiral into feeling overwhelmed, anxious or exhausted. Remember that while it’s good to challenge yourself, don’t overdo it!

Create Boundaries Between Work and Home Life

Creating boundaries between work and home life is an important part of staying healthy as a high performer. This could be something as simple as setting a hard cutoff time for when you stop doing work each night or designating certain days off where don’t do any work at all. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries at work either! If you have specific requests for how much you can take on or need more time for yourself, speak up about it!

Practice Self-Care Strategies

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, practice self-care strategies like going for a walk outside or taking three deep breaths before getting back to work. Also, make sure to block out time for activities that bring you joy. Whether that’s reading books, playing video games or even taking naps during the weekend. Taking the time to slow down and recharge will help keep up your performance levels in the long run.

How to Balance High Performance and Self-Care

When your high performance is rewarded with more work, it can be difficult to know how to find a balance between doing your best and making sure you take care of yourself. After all, if you’re burnt out, what good are your results?

Here are some tips for staying healthy:

Prioritize rest

Make sure you get enough sleep every night and take regular breaks throughout the day. The CDC (Centre of Disease Control and Prevention) shared that regular adult need at least 7 ~ 9hours of sleep a day. This helps any high performer to stay focused and energized.

Find a hobby

Pursuing something outside can help boost creativity. Hobby such as music, art, or reading can provide a welcome distraction when needed.

Establish boundaries

It’s important to have clear boundaries between work time and personal time to ensure that you’re taking time for yourself and not getting overwhelmed by the demands of your job.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you feel like the workload is too much. You need to speak with your boss or colleagues about delegating tasks or adjusting deadlines where possible.

High Performers Needs time for Themselves

Self-care techniques can help maintain consistent performance and protect mental health in the long run. High performance can be both satisfying and risky, so finding balance is crucial. Avoiding excessive pressure is important for high performers to prioritize their mental and physical health.

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