Most managers may call it a nice headache to have. Many employees may fail to see the problem. But left alone, prolonged overachievement can be a red flag. Overperformance sounds great on paper, especially for an employer. But at what cost? Here’s how to discuss your persistent overperformance with your manager.

Yes, it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear your manager say “I wish you’d stop working so hard”. But should they be saying it? In reality, ongoing overperformance can be bad for business, bad for managers and most importantly bad for you.

Persistent overperformance can be bad for you

While we don’t want to discourage you from giving your all at work if you are continuously smashing targets you might want to reflect. Overperformance can very quickly lead to burnout for employees.

Working to the maximum each and every day is hard. It’s hard on your mind, it’s hard on your body and it’s hard on the people around you too. For some, it’s perfectly manageable, but for many, sooner or later the pressure catches up with us. In fact, a study in 2021 showed that 52% of staff may be experiencing symptoms of employee burnout. The number one cause? A large workload.

If you are overperforming at work, chances are that sooner or later the wheels will come off a little and you’ll begin to feel the impact of burnout. What’s more, overperformance can in itself invite more pressure as managers and colleagues lean on you to help them with more and more tasks. It can become a never-ending cycle. With burnout linked to increased levels of poor mental, physical and social wellbeing, it’s something you need to avoid. So book in a call with your manager to discuss your overperformance now.

Overperformance can be bad for your manager and business

If your overperformance leads to you burning out and becoming impacted by all that entails, things will not be smooth for your leaders. If you’re off sick, tired, or decide to leave (some estimates put burnout as the main reason for up to half of all attrition) then the business and your team will suffer.

Replacing a team member whether short term or longer is never easy. It becomes much trickier when you have over-relied on that person to exceed targets. If an overperformer is missing for any period, or so tired they can’t keep up the pace, productivity will fall. And it may never recover.

But, what’s been happening during the time you’ve been at work overperforming is expectations have been shifted and created. Customers, suppliers, colleagues, and leaders now expect work to be done at a certain rate, with processes potentially built up around that. It can be hard for businesses to adapt when a key player is out of action. Much worse when you rely on that person’s unsustainable productivity.

The signs of overperformance

So, what does overperformance look like? Simply completing your workload on time and to a good standard should be expected, shouldn’t it? Well, it’s hard to give solid advice here, as it’s subjective. But there are a few tell-tale signs that you may be heading toward burnout, that would suggest you could be overperforming:

  1. Consistently meeting targets, no matter the pressure
  2. Working outside of contracted or traditional hours often
  3. Working over weekends or holidays
  4. Skipping meals, particularly lunch
  5. A reluctance to take time off from work
  6. Volunteering to help colleagues on their projects
  7. Frequently being asked to donate time to others
  8. Feeling tired, irritable, or ill
  9. Emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion

On their own, none of these point to overperformance or burnout, but if a few of them ring true for you, it’s time to reflect on your current workloads.

Preparing to discuss overperformance with your manager

So, if you think you might be overperforming, what can you do? The most important thing is to speak to somebody about it. In most cases that will be your manager or a senior leader at work. So, here are a few top tips to consider when preparing to discuss overperformance.

Reflect on your workload and performance

The first step in preparing for a meeting about overperformance is to take some time and reflect on what’s been going on lately. Do you feel like you are working harder or longer than you should need to? Are you constantly outperforming colleagues around you? Do you feel like you can lean on others when needed, or is it always down to you to get stuff done?

If possible, review recent work and goals. If you have a goal-management process or tool then jump into that and lay everything out. Make notes on anything that feels worth talking about. Anything that might point to overperformance or even early signs of burnout.

Confide in a colleague about your concerns

If going straight to your manager feels like a big step, reach out to a friend or colleague. Ask them for their opinion on your approach to work, and tell them how you are feeling if stress is already creeping up on you.

This is effective for two reasons; it helps you put your performance into context, and it acts as a confidence-builder in getting you ready to chat over everything with the boss.

Also, your co-worker may be able to offer up a fresh insight or a different perspective. This may help put your mind at ease about your working habits. Or it could shine a light on how much you’re putting yourself through beyond what’s expected.

Think about what support you need before you discuss your overperformance

If you’re not sure how to rein in your overperformance, then don’t stress here. But ideally, when preparing to discuss overperformance you’d look at a few ideas of what might help you slow down and work at a more manageable rate.

If you can identify the reasons why you are overperforming then that may well help you brainstorm solutions. Is your overperformance due to a perceived threat to your job? Impostor syndrome perhaps? Is it external pressure from others? Doing more than the job demands? Or just a burning passion for the work?

Whatever it might be, try to work out a few steps that will help you out moving forward. Perhaps you need a short holiday? Or maybe delegating a few tasks to a colleague? Would a small pay rise reduce any financial burden causing overperformance? Or could a simple change in the process help you to avoid working too much? Whatever you think might help, raise it with your manager. If you feel their support would help, then ask for that too.

Be open and discuss your overperformance with your manager

It can be really daunting telling your boss you think you’re working too hard. You might be concerned they’ll see it as some sort of scam, or be disappointed. You worry about what their reaction will be and if saying it will reduce future opportunities. Any manager worth their salt will not react in any way other than in full support. They will want to understand your concerns, discuss the impacts overperformance is having, and work out how they can help.

If they react with condescension, disbelief, or mockery, it might be time to get a new manager. But great manager’s care. And to best help you, they need you to be open and honest with them. Your manager may well already share your concerns, so don’t hold back in opening up about how you’re feeling. Share ideas around causes and solutions. Ask for their opinions, guidance, and support. Remember your manager is there to help you however they are able.

Avoid burnout by reassessing your workload priorities

Burnout is hugely damaging for you, your team, and your employer. Overperformance may feel like a good thing in the short term, but sooner or later it will catch up with you. Speak to your manager before the impacts of working too much affect you. Chances are your manager will be more than supportive if you’re worried about overperforming in your role and the challenges that can throw up. So go and speak to them as soon as you can.

Here’s what your manager may ask you when you book a call to discuss your performance.