You know the expression, “to reach the breaking point.” Not only do you know it, but surely, you’ve experienced it. Breaking points occur when so many things accumulate that the person gives way under stress.
Leaders are typically mindful of how much they can pile on to their average employees before they reach a breaking point. In fact, the typical employee is usually quick to point it out before it occurs.
A more interesting scenario is when this happens to a high performing employee. Usually that person lets it go way beyond what is reasonably expected of her and tries to do it all. She will simply extend her workday to ridiculous hours and hesitates to speak up about having reached capacity.
High performing people have limits, too, and leaders who recognize their talent and keep giving more assignments despite their capacity issues run the risk of creating burnout.
High performers have a hard time saying no while average performers are inclined to say no.
If you find yourself doing this, make an agreement with your high performing employee that both of you need to monitor capacity.
The leader can manage the process by asking first if the employee has the bandwidth for yet another assignment. The employee can also manage by speaking up if the leader didn’t notice that a breaking point is around the corner.
Good communication averts potential problems and keeps the workload manageable. Be mindful of when you’re piling on unreasonable amounts of work and be aware especially of the risk of burning out your best people.