I never thought dealing with an overachiever at work would be a huge thing for me. The way I see it, overachievers live in this self-fulfilling world where everything they do is about the way it makes them feel on the inside. For that reason, I never stood in the way of someone who wanted everything to be more than perfect.
Well, until recently.
A few months back, I had a run-in with someone whose need for overachieving started to hinder my job and the primary goal of our project. It was in this moment that I learned much more about this overachiever, my team and ultimately, myself.
Overachievers need specific tasks.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is leaving a known overachiever with nothing to do. They’ll find something to do, and usually, it’ll be something that another team member was supposed to do. If you and your team are currently working on a project, everyone should have a role. No matter how small or tedious the role may be.
Overachievers can be annoying but extremely helpful.
Usually, overachievers tend to be perfectionists. So be prepared for them to ask you the same question in six different ways. Your first thought will be to ignore them, but take the time to listen. Use their strengths (along with those of your other team members) for the betterment of the team as a whole. Sometimes, you might learn something from overachievers that you never thought to consider before.
Overachievers need feedback.
Whether good or bad, overachievers like feedback. And not just “good job” or “you could do better”. No, they want to know what exactly went wrong (or right, for that matter) with their part of the project and how they can make it better. Detailed feedback will keep them motivated and moving in the right direction. Honestly, I feel like this should be something you practice with every employee, but if you’re looking for a place to start, start with the overachievers.
Overachievers will get the job done.
That’s one thing you can always count on. I never had to worry about that. The overachiever I dealt with always went above and beyond, too.
Overachievers aren’t your enemies.
As I mentioned before, overachieving is usually a self-fulfilling thing. It’s something they do to make them feel good about themselves. They don’t necessarily mean to harm anyone in the process; they just want to get the job done accurately and efficiently. Remember, overachievers are twice as scared of failing as you are.
BUT sometimes they can be your enemies.
I know, I’m contradicting myself here. But use your better judgement. Take the time to get to know the people you work with. You’ll soon find out if you’re working with a closet-perfectionist, or if you truly have a self-centered ego-maniac on your hands.
If something fails, overachievers may turn the blame on you.
This is precisely what happened to me a few months back. And to be honest, I saw it coming. I just wasn’t sure when. It was in this moment that I had to step up and stand up for myself. It’s important that you document conversations and other files between you, overachievers and the rest of your team. I was only able to slide my way out of trouble because I kept my team informed of everything going on. Of course, I’m not saying that every overachiever will do this, but you can never be too prepared, right?
Never let the work of an overachiever interfere with your whole team.
No matter how good or bad the overachiever may be doing, the goal of the team outweighs the goal of one. Always.
In my opinion, I think that any ambitious professional who wants to move up the ranks can easily be misconstrued as an overachiever. Even myself at times. What do you think? Have you ever dealt with an overachiever at work? Have you ever been called an overachiever? Leave your stories in the comment section below!