- Talent Management
The term overachiever can draw sharp and distinctive reactions from people, particularly in the workplace. On one side are people who view overachievers as the dream employees, while there are some who feel the term is one that’s not necessarily positive.
While “overachiever” isn’t a new term, it’s become more prevalent in talent management, particularly because of the rise of Silicon Valley. When we think of all the tech companies and start-ups making waves right now, they’re often led, managed and staffed by the classic overachiever.
This focus on the term and what it means in the workplace is important outside of Silicon Valley as well, particularly since so many Millennial employees are seen as overachievers in many ways. This demographic is the most educated in history, tends to have the most robust resumes right out of college and tend to take well-rounded to a whole new level.
So who is the overachiever, and how do you manage this person?
Defining the Overachiever
Some of the adjectives often used to describe overachievers including ambitious, driven, focused, high-performing and determined. Overachievers seem to be able to tackle diverse projects simultaneously and do them well, and they almost always complete any task they’re given.
An overachiever is generally self-driven, doesn’t require a lot of direction or supervision, they’re more likely to go above and beyond than the average employee, and things aren’t usually just completed on time, but many times before a given deadline.
At the same time, while there are many glowing things that can be said about these individuals, particularly in the workplace, there can be drawbacks as well.
These high-performing people may not do well working in a collaborative or team-dependent environment, they may not enjoy focusing on the details and instead look at the bigger picture, and it can be difficult for them to follow certain protocols or processes for completing projects in the workplace.
Overachievers may demonstrate problems in communication, and they’re frequently seen as tightly wound.
Potential Pitfalls of Working with Overachievers
While hiring a classic overachiever can seem like a huge win for an organization, and it certainly can be, it’s also important to recognize the potential pitfalls that can lead to problems in the workplace. By identifying these potential problems from the start, they can be minimized through your management strategy, and you can make the best use of your high-performing overachievers.
The Harvard Business Review published a piece entitled “Leadership Run Amok: The Destructive Potential of Overachievers.”
In the article, authors Scott Spreier, Mary H. Fontaine and Ruth Malloy say that overachievers who
“relentlessly” focus on tasks and goals, can damage business performance over time. The article also says that as leaders, overachievers tend to “command and coerce,” as opposed to coaching and collaborating. Team performance may suffer as a result of a sense of oblivion to the concerns of co-workers and subordinates, and too much focus on achievement. This insensibility can “undermine morale,” according to the HBR authors.
A few other issues that can arise when managing overachievers in the workplace include their rejection of micromanagement and their possible reluctance to accept critical feedback.
So the question becomes how to balance the pros and cons of an overachiever in the workplace, and manage them in a way that ensures they’re an asset rather than a problem employee?
6 Tips for Managing Overachievers
Let us know your thoughts – what are the advantages and disadvantages of leading overachievers and how do you do it?
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