In recent interactions with high-performing clients, a recurrent theme emerges – they express feeling punished instead of rewarded and acknowledged. But why, you might wonder?
According to their own accounts, this treatment stems from their commitment to excellence, going beyond expectations, and consistently delivering outstanding results.
Let me share some instances of how many high achievers find themselves experiencing this perceived punishment:
- Expectations for them keep rising, whether it be numerical targets or bottom-line figures.
- Impractical Key Result Areas (KRAs) are set, creating undue pressure and stress.
- They are burdened with more responsibilities, but fewer resources to tackle the load.
- Professional development is withheld, under the guise of already performing well. Why invest in someone who’s already excelling?
- Growth opportunities are surprisingly scarce, confining them to roles they’ve already surpassed.
Many high performing leaders and executives are saying they are deprived of individual support because they appear self-sufficient.
Typically, high performers in the workplace are meant to be celebrated, rewarded, and acknowledged. They are supposed to be given ample recognition, even presented with opportunities for advancement and further development, fostering growth and succession.
However, the landscape of work has undergone transformation, ushering in new methods and challenges, including this unfortunate phenomenon of punishing rather than rewarding exceptional performance.
We all know the significance of being recognised and appreciated at work. Such gestures can result in numerous benefits, as research indicates that strong workplace relationships reduce the likelihood of employees seeking alternative job options by a staggering 61%.
So, what causes these difficulties for high performers?
Here are a few contributing factors:
- Work-Life Balance: Many high achievers place a laser focus on their careers, often prioritising work over personal life, family, and well-being. This preoccupation can lead to burnout, mental health issues, and strained relationships.
- Cultural Dynamics: Certain workplace cultures fail to grasp, appreciate, or properly acknowledge contributions from high performers. This disconnect may stem from a lack of performance evaluation systems, limited feedback, and coaching, and sometimes, even biased perceptions.
- Growth Opportunities: Strangely enough, growth can be stunted for those who exceed expectations. In some cases, there’s no clear succession plan, or they are kept in a holding pattern, seen as irreplaceable in their current roles.
- Resentment from Others: The success of high performers may trigger envy or feelings of threat among peers and colleagues. Consequently, meaningful interactions and relationships at work can suffer.
Though we would hope that many high performers escape these challenges, the unfortunate truth is that numerous individuals currently face these hardships. The pain is real.
So, the question arises – how can leaders and organisations rightfully reward high performers?
The approach must be multifaceted, tailored to the unique characteristics of each organisation, including its structure, culture, available resources, and overall objectives.
Here are some practical ideas:
Recognition and Gratitude: Demonstrate appreciation for high performers promptly and sincerely. Don’t wait for the perfect moment; seize opportunities to give praise of achievements. Engage in one-on-one conversations and coaching to provide feedback and an understanding of where they stand.
Team Acknowledgment: Foster a culture of gratitude by initiating team catch-ups with the question, “Who and what are you grateful for?” Additionally, introduce “Win Wednesdays,” where team members share their successes, no matter how big or small, and recognise those who contributed to their achievements.
Challenging Projects: Entrust high performers with leading high-impact projects that push their boundaries, providing continuous motivation and showcase your trust in their abilities.
Succession Planning: Every individual, including high performers, should have a clear succession plan. Take the time to understand their aspirations and design pathways that cater to their growth and aspirations, beyond just imposing bigger KRAs.
Self-Development: High performers thrive on growth and challenges. Invest in their professional development, be it targeted skills training, leadership courses, personal coaching, mentorship, or participation in industry events. Demonstrating this commitment will foster their continuous learning, growth, and ultimate success. Also consider leveraging high performers to teach and replicate success throughout the organisation.
Work-Life Balance: Encourage a healthy work-life balance by recognising that work is only a part of life, not its entirety. High performers often place immense pressure on themselves, striving to consistently achieve. Encourage them to take their annual leave, consider rewarding them with well-being days, or arrange fun team activities. Embrace flexible work arrangements, including remote options, and emphasise monitoring the quality of work rather than clock-watching.
In essence, the ways to reward high performers must be diverse and tailored to the individual’s preferences, motivations, and sources of energy. To embark on this journey, open communication, regular conversations, and feedback lay the foundation for understanding high performers on a more profound, human level.
Ultimately, we require these high performers – and that may include you – to drive workplaces towards exceptional levels, where everyone can flourish and thrive.
Now, the question remains: Are we rewarding or punishing our high performers in our own workplaces?
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