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Overachievers Under-Delivering: 6 Reasons Why

By December 2, 2013 No Comments

Man on ladder in cloudsEverybody loves an overachiever.  Well, most employers, at any rate.  These are your give-it-all-you’ve-got, work-hard, work-late, slave-to-the-goals perfectionists.  Noble traits, indeed.  Some might argue future leadership lies among the ranks of overachievers.  But your overachievers may be failing you.

Gail Miller of ERE.net offers six ways they could be falling short:

  1. They’ve got the need!  The need to please!  Having likely excelled at most everything they’ve taken on, from little league to violin to Honors Physics, overachievers are accustomed to being praised.  That may mean they’re more likely to make inauthentic decisions with acclaim as their end goal.
  2. Failure isn’t an option.  Psychologist Andrew Elliot points out that “overachievers have an underlying fear of failure or a self-worth contingent upon competence,” which can breed a habit of taking the road most traveled rather than taking risks or striving to accomplish something novel.
  3. Juggling is a challenge. If every task is equally important to an overachiever, managing multiple projects can become impossible when multiple priorities are at stake.
  4. They struggle to course correct.  Overachievers aren’t used to tweaking The Plan.  They can turn on autopilot, even if the road they’re on leads precisely nowhere.  Sure, they’ll succeed, but will they break new ground?  Will they even enjoy what they’re doing for long?
  5. They’re just fine as is, thankyouverymuch.  An analysis of high achievers by Thomas and Sara DeLong published in the Harvard Business Review makes the case that one common trait is a refusal to accept help.  “Many high performers would rather do the wrong thing well than the right thing poorly,” the article reads.  The appearance of uncertainty or inability is unacceptable.  And productivity and efficiency suffer.
  6. Patience is in short supply.  Performance and productivity are the hallmarks of an overachiever, so if a problem presents itself, your overachiever may bristle if the solution will take time to implement.  After all, their numbers could take a hit.

What’s an employer to do?  Take heed when you’re building your team.  A career overachiever may help you meet key objectives, but at what cost?  The most valuable employees can recognize their mistakes, learn from them and still aim for excellence.