Stop rewarding efficiency with more work
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Diligent, loyal, committed employees are easy to take advantage of — whether we mean to or not. They show up ready to work and often work far longer or harder than we expect because they are almost incapable of giving anything less than 100 percent.
They are the stars of our team, and we would not be as successful as we are without them. So why do we reward their dedication and efficiency by giving them more work?
You're busy, you do it
We know the adage, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. To avoid overworking our superstars, it helps to understand a little bit more about why we do this.
Often, busy people are good at saying no. So we know if we give these employees something to do and they cannot do it, they will tell us. Conversely, if they take the work, we know they will do everything they can to complete it.
Further, productive employees who are efficient tend to fall victim to a workplace application of the Jevons paradox. William Stanley Jevons was a 19th-century economist who posited that the more energy efficiency we achieved, the more energy we would use.
Consider this idea with worker efficiency instead: The more efficient a worker is, the more work I am likely to give her. As her efficiency increases and the time she saves increases, I will continue to give her more work to occupy all the time she has just saved.
Whether we agree with Jevons paradox when it comes to energy efficiency or not, the idea does seem to play out in the workplace. So, knowing that our star employees may be wound to only accept work they think they can do and are constantly working to become more efficient, how do we uncover the line between giving them more work and burning them out?
Money or responsibility?
As leaders and managers, we have both traditional and creative tools at our disposal to motivate our employees. To avoid burning out our stars while also getting the most out of them, we must provide a combination of incentives and a clear path.
First, we must let go of preconceived timelines. A big challenge with all overachievers is having to wait for long-delayed rewards — an accusation often leveled at millennials,. When we have great employees doing excellent work now, we must find a way to incentivize outside of annual or even quarterly reviews.
Strong employees — millennials or otherwise — should rightfully expect ongoing motivation. It is up to us to figure out ways to provide it outside of the traditional system that may limit monetary rewards. Instead, we must get creative about what we can offer.
Lunch, gift cards, time off, more responsibility, title changes, more challenging work and professional development opportunities are all nonsalary options that can provide continued motivation. Figure out what is possible.
Second, we must communicate clearly with high-performing employees about our expectations, their potential and the opportunities for rewards. This communication should happen early and often and should include an active discourse around what motivates the employee — in addition to money — what type of accomplishments will warrant reward and when those rewards can be expected.
The bottom line is this: To get the most out of our superstars, without burning them out, we must be open to different incentive options and clearly communicate opportunities.
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