When you have a few really great, reliable top performing employees on your team, it can be tempting to make them your go-to people. But it isn’t always smart to entrust the same people over and over again with the hardest or most time-consuming tasks, even if they are great at what they do. Giving your best workers more tasks and responsibilities than everyone else can have several detrimental effects—to them, the rest of your team and your business as a whole.
Here are some of the reasons why you may not want to rely too heavily on your top performing employees.
They may feel overwhelmed.
No matter how great a worker is, they can’t do absolutely everything for you all the time. There usually comes a point where they hit a wall and their workload will max out. It is then that they may start to feel overwhelmed. The extra responsibilities you’ve given them can ultimately make them feel weighed down—and they may never be able to complete all of it.
Their work may suffer.
If you force your best employees to take on more than their schedule permits, the quality of their work may suffer over time. Ultimately, you may end up pushing them to do a large amount of less-than-stellar work because they feel rushed and stressed, versus a moderate amount of really great work.
Basically, you run the risk of turning your top performing employees into average or, even worse, below average workers as a result.
They may feel burdened.
By giving your top performers extra work and responsibilities, you can risk creating feelings of being burdened. Rather than feeling pleased with the work they’ve completed, they may begin to notice that the work they're producing is not their best work. This can lead to feelings of defeat and being weighed down. Damage in confidence can result and top performers may no longer enjoy their work, both of which and can have a negative impact on workplace environment and productivity.
It can force them to sacrifice too much.
When top performing employees have so many extra responsibilities to deal with, it can take a toll on their personal lives outside of work as well. Your top workers may find themselves working long hours, giving up their weekends, missing out on much needed sleep and missing major family events or milestones. This can lead to poor employee satisfaction overall. Beyond that, it simply isn’t fair and can appear insensitive.
It can stunt the development of other team members.
Relying more heavily on some employees over others can also stunt the development of the rest of your team. Instead of forcing employees who aren’t exactly top performers to learn new things or grow into their roles, it can be tempting to just constantly push that extra work onto the same reliable people over and over again. However, doing so means your average or underperforming employees will likely stay average and underperforming, rather than having the chance to grow and improve.
They may feel like they’re being punished.
Giving so many extra tasks to the people who do the best work may make them feel like they’re being punished. Put yourself in their shoes. Why should they have to take on more than their colleagues just because they do their jobs well? When they look around and see their colleagues who aren’t as driven having a manageable workload and potentially even enjoying their work, it can make their job satisfaction go down even more.
They may lose the incentive to do good work.
The tendency to give lots of extra work to your top performing employees can lead to people not trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. It relays to your staff that the reward for doing great work ... is getting even more of it. You then risk your top performers ceasing to work as hard, so as not to overwhelm themselves even further. Average or underperforming workers may see no incentive to work harder or improve—since they won’t want to find themselves in positions similar to that of their top performing coworkers.
Your business may suffer when they leave.
When you ask a select few top performers to do many different things, they typically become an integral part of the day-to-day operations of your business. While that may work most of the time, there will come a time when some of them leave, go on vacation, have medical issues or are otherwise unable to do all or part of their jobs. When one or more of those top performers are out, it can have a much greater impact on your business than just one or two employees being unable to work for a few days. This can put a lot of pressure on your top team members to not take breaks. It can also put a big strain on the rest of your team, who may be ill-equipped to handle those tasks in the absence of your top performers.
They may reach the point of exhaustion.
If you keep giving all that additional work to the same employees for months or years on end, it can eventually have an impact on their health. By adding stress to their lives and forcing them to give up things like sleep, personal time to recharge and precious family time, your top employees may start to feel symptoms. And if that happens, you lose out on all that great work your top performing employees would have been doing—had you just let them stick to their main duties.
They may look for work elsewhere.
At some point, top performing employees may even get so tired of all the added responsibilities that they decide to look for a better, more flexible opportunity elsewhere. If they don’t feel successful, fulfilled and happy working for you, then they really may have no incentive to stay.
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A version of this article was originally published on January 25, 2016.