The Best Workers Are Now Experiencing ‘Performance Punishment’ — And It’s Burning Them Out

Employees shouldn't sacrifice their time, wellbeing, and happiness for nothing in return.

High-performing employee burned out from performance punishment PEERAWICH PHAISITSAWAN / Shutterstock

We all need money to live, so we show up to work, striving to provide for ourselves and our families. We might take on an extra project in hopes of getting a raise or promotion in the future. Or deal with a toxic work environment because the salary is bountiful. 

However, employment professionals admit that taking on extra work or exemplifying a “high-achieving” standard could actually be harmful to one's work-life balance and overall happiness. 


‘Performance punishment’ cultivates a toxic work culture and leads to burnout for many top employees. 

Content creator Tati, @capturethis__ on TikTok, studied industrial and organizational psychology. She admitted in a recent video that “performance punishment” is plaguing the happiness and well-being of employees across America. 

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“This is a phenomenon that a lot of higher-performing employees typically face,” she said, explaining that the term "performance punishment" refers to "when you show yourself to be so competent and so efficient, that you just  receive more and more and more work, often without any additional pay or recognition.” 

Unfortunately, the more you say “yes” to and the more you demonstrate your “success” at work, the harder it is to set clear work expectations and boundaries. 

Many employees also admit to being set up to fail when they’re "awarded" more work, as their leadership fails to provide support. But, news flash — if your leadership is giving you more work with no compensation or recognition, that’s not a reward. 

Not only does performance punishment foster burnout, but leadership’s reliance on these employees often breeds a toxic culture of resentment and low morale. When they’re not being supported or recognized, these employees are also more likely to leave, especially when their boundaries are ignored or nonexistent. 


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Escaping ‘performance punishment’ as a top employee usually means leaving the company or starting a different role with clear work boundaries. 

While being “high achieving” sometimes comes with its flowers, it has the potential to manifest toxicity in the lives of many professionals. In the world of “quiet quitting” and “coffee badging,” where employees attempt to set boundaries to find a healthy work-life balance, those who sacrifice for their company’s productivity often find themselves even further behind. 

“There’s no real way to undo performance punishment,” Tati explained, “because once high-performing employees start to explain that they’re nearing burnout or once they try to start creating boundaries … all of the sudden, senior leadership doesn’t understand.” 


She admitted that when “high performing” employees try to scale down their workload — often given to them because of their “higher efficiency” — they’re condemned by leadership. “It’s almost like the best way to get away from performance punishment is to leave the organization or find a different position where you can set boundaries.” 

However, leaving the company isn’t as easy as it might seem. Many creators admit companies are aware of how terrible the current job market is, and that’s what fuels them to “abuse” and take advantage of their workers

“You’re underpaid, tired, and stressed if you have a job,” @fatimah_taliah on TikTok admitted, “or you’re stressed out because you can’t find a job."


Remember, oftentimes “high-achieving” takes on a definition of its own in a corporate setting — and it’s usually not doing you any favors. So, for your protection, set a clear standard of work and boundaries, be adamant about what you can (and cannot) take on, and protect your personal time and well-being.

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a News & Entertainment Writer at YourTango who focuses on health & wellness, social policy, and human interest stories.