20 Sep Does being excellent at work hurt you?
Are you excellent at work?
“People ask high self-control people to do more for perfectly logical reasons—because they think that those who successfully demonstrate high (vs. low) self-control will perform better and accomplish more. So it is a reasonable thing to do, from the perspective of the partner, the manager, the coworker,” says Christy Zhou Koval, a Ph.D student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and lead author of the study.“But for the actor, it can feel like a burden. Why should you do more work for the same reward, while your less capable coworker coasts along with lower expectations and work?”
A separate experiment found that participants not only assigned more tasks to the go-getters. They also underestimated how much work it takes to get the job done. “What looks easy from the outside may not feel that easy on the inside,” says Gráinne Fitzsimons, one of the co-authors of the study.
The researchers then tried to understand how these expectations play out in real life. In a survey of more than 400 employees, they found that high performers were aware that they were giving more at work. They rightly assumed that their managers and co-workers didn’t understand how hard it was for them. Thus they felt unhappy about being given more tasks. Further, in a survey that was completed by more than 100 couples, partners who had greater self-control said they also felt burden and fatigue from being relied on more at home. (Interestingly, the results of these studies were not broken down by gender. Though this certainly opens up a new angle for future study.)
Are you excellent at home?
“This disconnect in how we see ourselves and how others see us can create problems in our relationships, both at home and at work,” says Koval. “Part of the issue is that people with high self-control are probably less likely than others to complain. They’re just likelier to ‘suck it up’ and do the extra work. But our findings suggest that they probably feel frustrated by that. They are less satisfied with their relationships with others who do ‘over-rely’ on them.”
It makes sense to rely more on competent people. However, Koval says that it’s important for co-workers and partners to recognize the stress they put on those people. In the workplace, she recommends giving rewards to the responsible employees. Similarly she recommends that romantic partners pitch in, and give credit where it’s due.
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