Q: Is it possible to be too good at your job? One of my employees gets projects done in record time, and people’s expectations have shifted to always assume a speedy turn around—and now the rest of the team feels rushed as a result. I’m worried he’ll get bored or burn out and start being less productive on purpose just to manage expectations. What should I do?
A: Yes, it is possible to be too good at your job—and it’s also possible to think you’re too good at your job. A good first step would be to really examine this person’s process and work product. His responsiveness may be great, but how’s the accuracy? Are people sending work back to be corrected? Is there negative feedback around attention to detail or quality of content? If this person is indeed as good as he seems, there are a number of steps to take to enhance his contributions, keep him engaged, and manage others’ expectations.
Fast is not always best. If this person is delivering standard quality work in “record time,” that’s great. But has he taken the initiative to enhance the deliverable in any way or streamline the overall process for the entire team? Once a task has been mastered, the next step is to look at what the objective is and see what opportunities for improvement exist—otherwise, the work becomes rote and yes, burnout and disengagement may be around the corner.
Managing expectations is also important if there are standard expected timeframes for work and if people on the team have varied processes. For even the fastest worker, there will be some days where he can get something done in an hour and other days where he’s pushing the limit just to get it finished on time. It all depends on other priorities in people’s workloads. If the rest of the team feels rushed in comparison to this employee, it’s worth reminding them that colleagues don’t have identical job responsibilities and will therefore have different times of the day or week where their workload is lighter or heavier. You certainly don’t want anyone needlessly stretching out tasks and making people wait—that will only frustrate team members and people who have come to appreciate increased responsiveness. If expectations need to be recalibrated, let internal customers know that their request has been heard, that the quality of the deliverable is a priority, and that it will be returned within the agreed upon timeframe. People will appreciate a heads up if a task will take longer than a typical response time.
This is also an excellent opportunity for this individual’s growth and development. Have you asked your employee to document his process and share best practices with his colleagues? If he can develop new standard operating procedures and share that expertise with others, he has the benefit of increased responsibility and the team has the benefit of new tools to implement to enhance their work product. Your goal should be for everyone to benefit from this person’s skill set rather than be negatively impacted in some way by it.
It is also possible that this is a sign that your employee has outgrown the scope of his current role in a more significant way. If his turnaround is as speedy as you say and the quality exceeds expectations, it’s time to have a conversation about potential new responsibilities to maintain his engagement and increase his challenge. Part of people’s eagerness to get ahead is not just to get more work but to jettison some things that they no longer really need to do. So, before this person gets bored, burns out, or starts getting less productive with his current job, have a conversation about where his career might be heading. After all, people are often promoted for identifying improved methods, being responsive to others, and being committed to sharing their expertise with others.
This sounds like a crucial time in this employee’s career—he either needs to slow down and reexamine his work or be given the opportunity to take on new responsibilities. You can facilitate individual and team growth by supporting—and sharing—this person’s skill set and setting him up for continued success at the organization.