To the overachievers among us, listen up: Your discipline, self-control, and productivity could be your own worst enemies. If you’re an expert in the art of GTD (“getting things done”), others could bring even more tasks for you to do—and those extra burdens can take a toll.
The four researchers who examined this phenomenon include Gráinne Fitzsimons, associate professor of management and organizations, and doctoral student Christy Zhou Koval, both of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina; Michelle vanDellen, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Georgia in Atlanta; and Krista Ranby, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Colorado in Denver.
In one lab study, when the group asked 125 undergraduates to delegate tasks to others, students described as having more self-control ended up with more tasks. The researchers conducted another study in which they asked 403 employees of a real-world company, as well as five of their supervisors and co-workers, to complete self-assessments. Employees who believed they had more self-control also reported making more sacrifices and taking on more burdens at work than those who reported they had lower self-control. That pattern held when researchers asked 139 couples to complete online surveys—higher self-control partners felt they took on more responsibility, felt more fatigue, and experienced less satisfaction in the relationship.
The takeaway for employers—and spouses: Do not take those with high self-control for granted or underestimate their risk of burnout. “If you want to keep these high self-control employees,” says Fitzsimons, “you want to make them feel good and appreciated.”
“The Burden of Responsibility: Interpersonal Costs of High Self-Control” was published online in May in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology