Being a superstar at work may be hurting your peers (and how to fix it)

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Almost every office has a star employee who carries the weight for their colleagues. And if that star is you, chances are there are never enough minutes in the day to fulfill everyone’s demands of your time.

Still, it may seem like the best choice just to keep on keeping on. But the truth is your ambition and capacity may be holding back some of your colleagues while leading to undue frustration on your part.

According to Sue Shellenbarger, the work and family columnist for the Wall Street Journal, star employees “risk burning out, becoming a bottleneck on their teams or overshadowing co-workers who stop learning and growing.” This means that all your good intentions may actually have unwanted consequences for your peers and your company.

It’s true that high achievers have merit. Shellenbarger cites Michael Mankins, co-author of “Time, Talent and Energy” and a partner with Bain & Co., who says “star performers are 51% more productive than others in their field.”

That means that a really great employee can make the whole operation more efficient, just with their presence.

But in more creative fields, these high-achievers actually tend to hold back their less brilliant co-workers, according to a new study that has yet to be published. “You somehow create a dependency, so that others rely on you,” Ning Li, who conducted the study, told the Journal.

Always being the achiever also puts a lot of pressure on workers, which can create tensions that cause employees to leave their jobs.

“Executives are left scratching their heads, wondering how they lost their superstar,” said Dana Brownlee, founder of corporate-training firm Professionalism Matters.

There are plenty of things bosses can do to make sure their top performers don’t burn out. But if you’re the star on your team, what can you do to take care of yourself?

Shellenbarger’s made a list of dos and don’ts for the high achievers out there … and they’re rules to live by if you’re one of them. Here are her suggestions, in her own words:

What not to do:

  • Take over important projects.
  • Agree to every demand on your time.
  • Extend your work hours so you can do it all.
  • Allow work to back up because you’re too rushed to help.
  • Deprive colleagues of learning opportunities.
  • Allow your ideas to eclipse everyone else’s.

What to do:

  • Prioritize demands on your time.
  • Delegate unmanageable work to others.
  • Invite coworkers’ ideas and suggestions.
  • Guard against overload and burnout.
  • Notice teammates’ problems and offer help.
  • Help coworkers grow their careers.