Punished for Success

How many times have you seen situations where the most productive people are rewarded with more work, or when a segment of a process doesn't deliver the value is should you go around it. Although these actions seem sensible in the name of immediacy they actually lead to the longer term decline of the whole structure. There are probably numerous appropriate alternative labels for this example. A few that come to mind are: Failure by Success, Overworking the Overworked, Punishing the Gifted, Rewarding Mediocrity, etc.

Consider the following example in which Sue is a superior performer and Tom is quite a mediocre performer. This is really an example of a viscous escalation structure in which the overall results decline over time.

Because of the performance of Sue relative to Tom, Tom is rewarded with less work to Tom. Since Tom is a poor performer this work simply adds to his poor performance which in turn adds to the performance of Sue relative to Tom.

Since the performance of Sue relative to Tom is in Sue's favor the next critical, urgent, or essential assignment of work will add to the work to Sue. This will happen over and over until Sue is essentially overloaded. At this point the work to Sue will subtract from Sue's good performance. As Sue's good performance declines it will add less to the performance of Sue relative to Tom, yet she will still out perform Tom.

The continued positive performance of Sue relative to Tom will continue to subtract from the work to Tom and the structure repeats.

Effective Strategies

In time the total overall performance from the structure suffers. Sue will continue to out perform Tom, yet at lowers levels of effectiveness, until she either burns out, gives up from over abuse, or quits.

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Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger