Why High Performers are More Likely to Experience Burnout & How to Protect Them

June 21, 2018

High performers hold great value for any company, delivering 400% more productivity than average performers. Yet, if companies do not help them maintain their well-being, these gains are quickly forfeited in the form of disengagement, faster than average departures, and physical and mental health ailments.

A five-year study in the UK found that the mental health of 20% of the top-performing leaders of UK businesses is affected by corporate burnout. While the overzealous tendencies of high performers are likely partially to blame, many companies and leaders engage in three common practices, often unknowingly, that make top performers even more likely to burn out:

  1. They put high performers on the hardest projects
  2. They use high performers to compensate for weaker team members
  3. They ask high performers to help on many small efforts unrelated to their work

Companies can start to correct this by noticing when these patterns are happening. Beyond that, you can try these three strategies to help high performers avoid burnout and maintain well-being for the long-term:

  1. Let high performers occasionally pick their projects
  2. Create high-performing pairs (put two high performers of a similar level on the same team)
  3. Keep track of additional demands on their time

This is an excerpt of the article “How Are You Protecting Your High Performers from Burnout?” we published in Harvard Business Review.