Yes, it is easy to blame the high performer for not learning to say no, but that’s not reality:
It’s easy to blame burnout on the high performers themselves. After all, the stereotype is that these overachievers say yes to more work even when they’re already at capacity. They routinely put work first, canceling personal engagements to finish the job.
While such habits may be partially to blame, this isn’t the full story. In my experience, many companies and leaders engage in three common practices, often unknowingly, that make top performers even more likely to burn out:
The author goes on to look at three ways management doesn’t help, but to me the one overriding principle that often creates this level of burnout and overwork is a manager, or entire organization, that is unwilling to do the hard work of fixing problems. Why do we need high performers to cover up for low performers? Because we won’t deal with people not meeting up to expectations. Why do we ask them to get involved in various extra work projects? Because hiring more staff to actually cover those roles is hard, and costs money. Why do we continue to dump more work on them? Because they get it done, and all of the other alternatives involve hard work and hard decisions from management. Much easier to just keep relying on those high performers, at least until they can’t handle it anymore and leave.
Then there will be hard decisions to be made, whether you like it or not.