Why Good Employees Get “Rewarded” With More Work

tired adult woman with papers in light modern office

As a professional, you’ve probably noticed that your workload tends to vary depending on how well you are performing. Instead of being distributed evenly among employees, tasks often gravitate towards the more productive members of the team.

Is this a reward for achieving great results? Not really – it is actually a detriment to organizational success and can eventually lead to employee burnout. In this blog post, we’ll explore why good employees get “rewarded” with additional work and what you can do about it if you’re receiving an unfair amount of work.

A False Productivity Premise

Imagine you’re a supervisor of a team, and you have deadlines for 5 projects that are due at the end of the week. You have a team of 5 people, and you assign each of them one project. But, one of your team members finishes in one day, while the others are still working on their projects.

So, what do you do? You give them more work to help complete the 5 projects. By the end of the week, one employee has completed 2.5 projects, and the other 4 collectively have completed 2.5.

Maybe as the manager, you say that each employee has their strengths and some employees are faster worker than others… but as long as all the projects get done on time, it’s all good.

This is a false sense of productivity because although the work is getting done, it’s not necessarily being evenly distributed. The employee who finished their entire project in one day ends up having to do 2.5 projects while the rest of the team only has to do 1 each.

This Unfair Distribution of Work Results In:

• Excessive stress and anxiety – Even though you’re a “good” employee, you’re still under more stress than everyone else.

• Loss of productivity – Because you’re constantly working on additional projects, your overall performance can suffer from fatigue and burnout.

• Inequality – When work is not distributed evenly, it creates an unfair dynamic between employees that can lead to resentment.

• Resentment – When people feel like they’re not being treated fairly, it can lead to feelings of anger and resentment towards their employer.

• Promotion of Laziness – This unfair distribution of work can lead to some employees feeling like they don’t have to try as hard.

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The Collectivist Dilemma

The approach of giving more work to the “better” employees is wrongheaded because it promotes individual rewards for collectivist actions. The problem there? Employees are incentivized to do less and get paid with no consequence, while their harder-working colleagues get burned out and churned out.

And, as a worker who does their job, you are forced to laterally manage your team and manage your boss’ workflow to prevent yourself from getting burned out.

An employee might feel taken advantage of and resentful if they receive extra work on top of their already assigned tasks that is not distributed evenly among other team members. They may feel that their hard work and dedication is being taken for granted, as well as feeling overwhelmed by the extra workload.

It can be demoralizing to see lazier colleagues not being held accountable for their low work output and being rewarded with less work. This can lead to feelings of frustration and potentially lead to decreased productivity in the workplace. Furthermore, this situation can cause increased stress levels and affect an employee’s mental health. It may also create tension between employees as they feel resentful of those that are seemingly getting away with doing less work.

What Can Be Done

The best way to handle the unfair distribution of work is to create a more equitable system that rewards productivity while recognizing individual efforts.

Here are 5 things you can do to not get “rewarded” with additional work as a team member:

1) Set Strict Boundaries: Make sure your boss is aware of the scope and limit of your workload. Let them know that you don’t have any extra capacity for additional projects or tasks.

2) Speak Up: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you feel like your workload is too much, don’t be afraid to speak up. Address the issue with your manager and let them know why it’s not fair for you to take on extra work without equal compensation.

3) Monitor Your Teammates’ Output: Keep track of your team members’ workload and make sure they are pulling their weight.

4) Ask For Help: If you’re struggling with a project or task, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your team.

5) Work Slower: If you’re feeling overwhelmed and think that your boss is taking advantage of you, try to work slower. This will send a message that you’re aware of the extra work they are giving you without compensation.

The unfair distribution of work in the workplace can have serious repercussions on productivity, morale, and overall job satisfaction. It’s important to be aware of the consequences it can have and take steps to create a system that rewards productivity while recognizing individual efforts.

By following these 5 tips, you can ensure that your hard work is recognized and appreciated, and that no one else is taking advantage of you.


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