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Working with Overachievers in Team Settings

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  • 0:03 Oscar the Overachiever
  • 1:10 Recognizing Overachievers
  • 2:11 Working with Overachievers
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Overachievers succeed in many ways but require special attention from managers. In this lesson, you'll learn more about working with overachievers in team settings, including recognizing them and managing them.

Oscar the Overachiever

Oscar gets to work hours before his colleagues. By 9 a.m., he's wiped out two presentations, three projects, and half of his to-do list. He works through lunch, turning down his co-worker's invitation to eat out. By mid-afternoon, he's finished all his tasks and is working ahead on next week's goals.

There are a lot of descriptors that could be tossed around for this kind of employee: successful, perfectionist, ambitious, or high-performing. Oscar, though, is a classic example of a workplace overachiever.

An overachiever is a person who is more successful than those around him because he gets more done than is expected. That's just like Oscar - getting to work early and working so efficiently that he's on to next week's tasks before it's even Wednesday.

For managers, understanding the overachiever persona in the workplace is critical to knowing how best to manage them. In this lesson, we'll talk about recognizing when a team member is an overachiever and how to work with overachievers without harming their motivation.

Recognizing Overachievers

For all their positives, overachievers can also present challenges in a workplace. They may be driven and focused, able to handle multiple assignments at the same time without much supervision, but may simultaneously struggle with working as a member of a team. Breaking a project apart to focus on the minutiae or following written instructions may prove to be a problem as they work in a team atmosphere.

However, managers may be able to help these individuals if they can recognize them for what they are. Workplace overachievers may:

  • Work on projects without being asked
  • Take on extra assignments on their own
  • Go above and beyond any specified requirements
  • Avoid working on joint or team projects
  • Obsess over completing assignments
  • Struggle with communicating with co-workers
  • Focus on the big picture instead of the small details
  • Lose patience with colleagues who don't work at their level
  • Struggle with high, even unattainable expectations
  • Have difficulty in social situations

Working with Overachievers

Getting the best out of overachievers without damaging their motivation (or the motivation of workers around them) can be tricky. If you push too hard, you may overwhelm them; don't push hard enough, and they may get bored. Let's talk about some strategies for managing overachievers in the workplace.

Flexibility

First, overachievers don't react well to directives or criticism, so being flexible in the early stages of planning and decision-making by incorporating them into the process can be an effective strategy for managing their abilities. Ask questions and get input from them to help them feel included in the process.

Flexibility in work processes may also be important. Setting goals is always a good idea, but giving overachievers the flexibility in how they achieve those goals can keep overachievers engaged in the process.

Coaching

For many employees, coaching can help provide instruction. For overachievers, it can serve as an opportunity to acknowledge their hard work, inspire or motivate them, or set goals to keep them focused. Another spin on coaching may be to have an overachiever mentor or coach an employee on his or her own.

Creativity

Because overachievers may finish projects more quickly than their counterparts, building in some time for creativity can keep them focused. Some companies allow employees a percentage of time every week to devote toward side projects that not only interest them but may be beneficial to the organization in some way.

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