Forbes: Why Overperforming Creates Burnout And Bad Behavior

December 21, 2023

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In a recent Forbes article, Fresh Tri’s founder and CEO, Dr. Kyra Bobinet, uncovers the dark side of performance-based cultures, shedding light on the destructive consequences of overemphasizing success metrics. Drawing from real-life examples and the latest brain science research, she challenges the prevalent notion that success is solely defined by meeting rigid performance goals.

The Dark Side of Performance Metrics

Dr. Bobinet shares a story from a former executive at a well-known social media company, revealing how a product team prioritized year-end bonuses over ethical concerns. The pressure to boost advertising revenue led to a risky campaign targeting a larger user audience, potentially including underage individuals. Another scenario involves a doctor pressured to run unnecessary tests to meet a hospital’s financial goals, resulting in burnout and a sense of failure.

Beyond Winning: The Pitfalls of Performance-Based Culture

The article highlights society’s obsession with performance-based everything, from work to health and even relationships. Driven by goals, results, and profits, this culture can lead to lying, cheating, or burnout. Burnout, as Dr. Bobinet explains, isn’t just about fatigue but stems from the habenula brain region’s role in our sense of failure.

The Role of the Habenula: A Newly Discovered Brain Area

The habenula is a recently discovered brain area, Dr. Bobinet explains, that functions as a failure alarm and a motivation kill switch. In environments where individuals are pressured to prioritize goals, the brain inevitably experiences failure, leading to a loss of motivation. This phenomenon can manifest in burnout or unethical behaviors, as exemplified by the Wells Fargo scandal.

The Inherent Flaws of Rigid Performance Goals

Dr. Bobinet challenges the traditional notion of performance goals, arguing that they narrow the definition of success to a single outcome. In a world where life is unpredictable, rigid performance goals set the stage for failure, which, in turn, drives burnout. The article cites Wells Fargo’s scandals as a prominent example of how top-down pressure for performance goals can lead to unethical practices.

Flipping the Script: A Blended Approach

As a CEO, Dr. Bobinet acknowledges the role of performance goals but advocates for a blended approach that neutralizes the inherent failure in innovative work. Instead of relying solely on performance-based metrics, she emphasizes giving individuals control and providence over their work as a means to increase or retrieve motivation. This approach, backed by research studies on burnout, offers a more sustainable solution to the challenges posed by rigid performance goals.

In conclusion, Dr. Kyra Bobinet’s article challenges leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and coaches to reconsider the impact of unreasonable performance goals on individuals. By understanding the role of the habenula and acknowledging the limitations of a solely performance-driven culture, organizations can pave the way for a more sustainable and fulfilling work environment.

Read the full article here.

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