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5 Penalties High-Performing Employees Often Receive at Work

Many high achievers in the workplace have struggled with perfectionism, the need to please others, and academic satisfaction throughout their lives—it’s not something that develops overnight. Of course, the intense motivation it provides in the workplace can be beneficial to productivity in some cases, but often it leads to detrimental “rewards.”

As career coach Greg Langstaff admitted on TikTok, echoing a Forbes article about “performance penalties,” trying too hard isn’t always a good thing, especially when you’re working in a toxic work environment.

“If you’re surrounded by the right people, it’s great for your career to perform at your best,” he explained. “So if you’re performing at your best and you’re not being treated like the superstar that you are… then get out there (and go) somewhere where you’re going to be treated with the respect that you deserve.”

RELATED TOPIC: The best employees are now being “punished for their performance” – and that’s burning them out

Here are the 5 “penalties” that high-performing employees experience compared to colleagues who “slack off”:

1. You are “rewarded” with more work without paying more for it

In a toxic work environment, many employees are not only underpaid, but also underappreciated for the work they do. Instead of rewarding high performers with raises, bonuses, or time off—the benefits people really crave—they are given more work and more difficult tasks.

“According to Forbes, high performers face a number of disadvantages in the workplace that their lower performers don’t have to contend with,” Langstaff said. “This includes being assigned overtime without additional pay.”

Although these high performers work overtime because of their proven competence and efficiency, they often do not reap the rewards of their productivity, resulting in stagnant wages or a job title that is inappropriate for their daily workload.

2. You are responsible for more difficult or time-consuming tasks

Not only are high performers more likely to have a bigger workload after they’ve proven their skills, but they’re also given more difficult tasks by management. If you could do the admin work, you could give that presentation, right? And manage that difficult team? And deal with that difficult customer?

It’s almost as if they’re passing off the kind of difficult work they’d rather not do, or at least not oversee, to a less experienced colleague in order to clear their plate. While it’s a nice validation that they’re trusted in the workplace, it only increases job stress and overwhelms many high performers who are already struggling.

RELATED: After being denied a raise for two years, top-performing employee tells his boss his work will be too bad because his salary is ‘below average’

3. They inadvertently turn jealous peers into “enemies”

It’s human nature to harbor jealousy in certain situations, especially in a hostile environment like a toxic workplace where strong emotions run rampant. This kind of growing resentment, especially from insecure or jealous coworkers, can lead to numerous active and passive conflicts in the workplace and make it difficult for anyone to get out of bed in the morning.

Conflict and toxicity don’t just come from other colleagues; they can also come from the high performers themselves. “Along with the positives, there can also be rigid and very demanding personalities, big egos, a lot of drama and division in the workplace,” career coach Ryan Dunlap admitted on TikTok. “High performers can be difficult to manage if they develop a sense of entitlement.”

Of course, if they are not adequately compensated, valued or recognized, resentment in their working relationships will inevitably grow. As resentment increases, attitudes change and conflicts arise. To combat these types of stressful relationships, it is important that bosses lean on their active leadership and ensure that all of their employees’ needs are met.

4. You have to expect reprisals from fearful bosses

As successful people put more and more of themselves into their jobs – meeting and exceeding expectations – not only their colleagues and peers become jealous of their work ethic, but so do their bosses.

“They may even face retaliation from their bosses who fear they will take their jobs away,” he added. “Of course, in many extreme situations, these high performers are simply held to higher expectations.”

Especially in today’s modern corporate world, there is a sense of individual competition in the workplace – whether it’s fighting for raises, leadership positions, or just a boost of confidence. Because toxic leadership seeks control, recognition, and superiority, any kind of success among them is seen not as a reflection of their “good work,” but as a threat to their power.

Boss scolds high-performing employee YURII MASLAK / Shutterstock

5. High performers have higher expectations, which often leads to burnout

While high performers are more likely to suffer from burnout and have the highest percentage of work-related stressors, their problems are also more likely to go unnoticed. They are less likely to ask for help, talk to their managers, and take a break from work to rest. This only exacerbates their dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and poor health.

Even on their “bad days,” they are expected to perform to higher standards than their lower-performing colleagues. This fosters a cycle of stress and recognition that burns out high performers. In a healthy workplace, even these high performers would be given the freedom to rest without fear of losing their status, compensation, or recognition.

In fact, healthy workplaces and bosses make it a point to make rest, fair compensation, and mental health promotion topics that don’t stigmatize their colleagues. They aren’t afraid to meet their employees where they are – making sure everyone is taken care of, fairly compensated, and motivated to do their best work without suffering from overwhelming stress, burnout, or resentment.

RELATED TOPICS: 12 rare traits found only in high performers in the workplace

Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango, focusing on health and wellbeing, social policy and human stories.

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