One conversation can keep your star performers from burning out

While studies suggest that people who show more initiative tend to find work more meaningful and motivating, other research suggests that these star employees are at greater risk for stress and fatigue.

However, there is a way for managers to help their star performers strike the right balance, write Mark Bolino and Anthony Klotz for Harvard Business Review.

Employees who engage in "citizenship behavior," like volunteering for special projects or helping out co-workers, improve the organization's efficiency and effectiveness, explain Bolino, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, and Klotz, an assistant professor at Oregon State University.

How to overcome "new initiative" anxiety

But there can be a downside. When employees feel pressured to take on extra tasks or are unable to complete their day-to-day work, they can start to feel overwhelmed, note the authors.

To reduce risk of burnout, leaders should have a conversation with each employee to identify that person's unique style of organizational citizenship, recommend Bolino and Klotz.

During the conversation, managers should encourage each employee to identify stretch projects that align with his or her personal strengths and motivations, explain the authors. Aligning projects to personal interests helps the employee both deliver more impactful engagement and avoid burnout, the authors note.

Bolino and Klotz also recommend communicating what types of citizenship behaviors are most important to the team—and warning employees that taking on too many projects can lead to overextension.

To retain top talent, managers matter

If leaders motivate employees to pursue initiatives that fit their unique interests, they can improve employee well-being and team productivity, write Bolino and Klotz (Bolino/Klotz, Harvard Business Review, 9/26).


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