Overachievers And Why We Hate Them

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Why Do We Hate Overachievers?

love-hate-Overachievement

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 a 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.  Hate is tied very closely to love and lust.

So why do organizations, leaders, and co-workers hate overachievers?

What John Travolta Can Teach Us About Overachievement

Over the weekend I watched one of my favorite movies from the 90′s with John Travolta; 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.  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 in Phenomenon read six books or more a day.  He worked on projects like developing an organic fertilizer or creating a less time consuming route in which to deliver mail.  This is 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 a lot 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.  Overachievement 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.

Understanding Overachievement

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 rather than do the right thing poorly.  It is this drive to be the best conflicts with their ability to ask for help when an OA is in too deep.

While they produce and have a phenomenal drive, they drive leaders to the brink of insanity, hence the hate for overachievers.  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.

Photo Credit Filipspagnoli.

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Comments

  1. Brilliant read, Jennifer. Very nice job of putting into words a really tough group of people to understand.

    Reply
  2. I used to be an overachiever in my previous job. But when I realized that it won’t get me anywhere (except for more work and no additional income), I decided to relax a bit and not burn myself out. From then on, I began getting annoyed by overachievers. But yeah, their fires burn out too at certain times. And then it becomes tricky. How to treat who and when. That’s why I bought books like this one http://www.depressionatwork.com by Dr. Darryl Cross, so I can learn how to deal properly with my colleagues at the office.

    Arlene Marie Daniels |
    Reply
  3. There seems to be a bias against OA. Leaders or HR may need to speak to them directly and convey their concern and suggest possible paths. Instead of labeling, typecasting and alienating, they may need to be put in teams with somewhat similar folks and imagine the incredible outcomes!! IMHO, yes they are to be rewarded suitably. Things don’t always come easy to OA’s.. They go through their personal pains too. Leaders who can’t handle them in their teams may have to hand them over to more capable leaders in other organizations. Otherwise they shrink and fade into mundane oblivion. Don’t let that happen.

    Reply
    • Hi Jo,

      Thanks for the comment. I think that in corporate and in life sometimes, we alienate, shame, and bully people we don’t understand. Maybe it’s jealousy, but over achievers shouldn’t be treated badly because they can get the job done in half the time. I’m not slowing down to make anybody look better.

      JMM

      Reply
  4. I’ve been called an OA but at the time I’m not sure I really believed what they were saying or knew what it really meant. It has been described so eloquently in this post. Interestingly, I never thought of it as performing in a way that purposely makes people feel bad. I honestly believe some OAs perform the way they do because they are in “the zone” at least for a little while where the work is fun and creativity flows freely. It’s true though, sometimes the fire burns out, http://www.simplecareerlife.com/2012/12/my-epic-career-journeyso-far.html . However, the beauty of it is, most OAs will find another outlet.

    Love your blog!
    Kensington

    Reply
  5. Jessica why are you hating on Jennifer? it was obvious that was sarcasm!!

    Is it because she is an overachiever and you feel threatened by her?

    Jessica i think your lack of understanding, openings, or willingness to work with Jennifer fuels the negative emotions you have for her!

    Great article.

    Sincerly,
    Wdp

    wdp |
    Reply
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