We all know someone like this. That person who everyone else asks for help. The one the boss relies on to pitch in on every project that is floundering, even while spearheading other work. The friend who seems able to think about your problems and their problems, while you perhaps feel weighed totally with simply your own issues.
Some of us are the one receiving help, some of us are the ones providing assistance. At different times in our lives most of will wear both hats – but for some there is a pattern of taking on an extra burden. Within the workplace there is often one type of person who gets tapped to fill that role, the hyper competent.
At first this seems to that individual like an acknowledgement of their ability. A wished for recognition that they are talented in a way that others really need. This is not wrong. This is with out a doubt a primary factor in becoming the one who is relied on. This person is highly capable, engenders trust and often delivers on expectation. However this can cause an issue both for the employee and the company.
The burnout this can cause, or the lack of productivity due to being spread so thin, are well worn paths. I wish to examine the other side of the equation – the risk run by the organization.
Organizations or groups that have hyper competent individuals come to rely on them by nature. If it becomes too common, if there is an underlying issue that might be masked by the borrowed competence of this individual. How important does it become to understand the reason this person is getting so much work? We should all be aware that relying on a small subset of the company is risky. If it is simply the blinding talent of one person,that may not be an issue. But if this bandage is covering up the festering incompetence of their peers it becomes imperative to keep an eye on the situation. Where there is implanted competence, we must be wary of infection in the potential gaps that competence covers up.