Overachievers and Why We Hate Them

I work very hard at what I do with every client, presentation, and article I write.  Some may call me an overachiever.  I work long hours, solve complex problems and do it all with a passion and smile most days.  I love what I d0, but not everyone loves me back.

Hate is a very strong word.  It’s an emotion, a feeling.  Tied very closely to love and lust.  So why do organizations, leaders, and co-workers hate overachievers?

Over the weekend I watched one of my favorite movies from the 90′s with John Travolta in Phenomenon.  The storyline gives us insights into what life is like for that pesky office or industry overachiever we love to hate.

  • Overachievers are different. They think different, act different, do different, and work different.  And for the hive of humanity different isn’t good.  It reminds us we have weakness and our immortality.
  • Overachievers work differently. John Travolta’s character read six books or more a day.  He worked on projects like developing an organic fertilized or creating a less time consuming route in which to deliver mail.  A seemingly unconnected group of projects or interests, not unlike your young Gen Y counterpart in your office.  He plays around on Facebook, leaves the office and 5 and still manages to get his work done better and before everyone else.  Working more doesn’t always equate to more productivity or better quality.  Some people just are good at what they do no matter what.
  • Overachievers want special treatment. In their mind it’s not special just different treatment.  They want to be rewarded for their ability to get the job done better than everyone else.  That means flex schedules, Fridays off and work from home options.  Being an overachiever is alot like being a blogger.  I want free access to your conference, perks (free stuff), and respect.  I ooze influence.  With me, it’s a package deal.  Your OA is no different. 
  • Overachievers burn out. OA’s are competitive and action-oriented.  They blaze trails, work hard, conquer projects and check out.  Organizations need to be able to manage these kinds of individuals to take advantage of the passion, knowledge, and perspective they bring to an organization.

These feelings of hate or disdain are fueled by the leader within the organization or department.  Their lack of understanding, openings, or willingness to work with an overachiever fuels the negative emotions from team members.  While leaders mean well, their responsibility is to motivate, retain, train, and grow their employees.  And that starts with communication, conversations, and structure for the underachiever, average achiever, and overachiever. Overachievers operate in what is called “The Paradox of Excellence.”  They opt to do the wrong thing well than do the right thing poorly.  This drive to be the best conflicts with the ability to ask for help when an OA is in too deep.

While overachievers produce and have a phenomenal drive, they drive leaders to the brink of insanity, hence the hate.  They refuse help and undermine your leadership.  This is why mentorship, training, and special projects are essential to corral that overachiever.  Keep them on task, entertained, engrained, and occupied.  Because channeling the drive, compassion, and power an overachiever are essential to leading, growing, and rebuilding your department or organization.  Teaching your overachiever humility takes practice but is necessary to their future success either with your organization or someone else’s.

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