Why All Virtual, No Office Will Burn Out Your Superstars

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Your organization has a secret weapon: the female integrator. She is an ultra-performing super-connector. She connects the dots, connects fractious functions and connects the business to the felt needs of your customers. But she is at risk in an endless season of all virtual and no face-to-face interaction. Why? The innate drives and skills that make her potent at the office make her uniquely exposed to depletion in a prolonged virtual environment.

This article is the first in a 3-part series:

  1. In this article, you’ll meet the superstar integrator and discover she’s a female.
  2. Next, learn the 5 ways she is thwarted in an all virtual no office world. (for example, although empathy is her super-power, science says it is harder to achieve empathy on videoconference than audio)
  3. Finally, discover what it is about virtual meetings (for example, techno-seizures and self-consciousness) that makes the wrong juices flow and how this short-circuits the efforts of the superstar integrator.

Meet the Superstar Integrator

You know your stars. They’re the ones who go ABCD. (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) If you could, you’d clone them. They are your collaborative ninjas, your connective glue. The HBR article Collaborative Overload revealed three critical points about these collaborators:

First, they carry a disproportionate load. Thirty percent of the value-added collaborations in your organization are shouldered by five percent of your employees. Second, they are likely to be women. Third, they are exhausted women. Source: Collaboration Overload https://hbr.org/2016/01/collaborative-overload

Rare and essential, these female collaborators perform the most highly leveraged work of all: integration. Superstars yes, but more importantly in a disintegrating COVID reality, they are superstar integrators.

Some see the distinctiveness of the parts, others the comprehensiveness of the whole. Integrators see both, spot the interdependencies between them, then innovatively re-assemble the parts to create a more coordinated whole.

Some see black. Some see white. Integrators value black, white and every color in between. Most people feel the tension, switch to binary thinking and race to quick conclusions and unintelligent compromises. Not integrators. They see opposing viewpoints as a fascinating puzzle. They quickly recognize the common ground, identify the options missed by others, synthesize competing priorities and create a valuable path to progress.

Can’t men also be integrative superstars? Of course, but while men are 36% more likely to share knowledge and expertise, women are 66% more likely to assist others in need. Dispensing know-how can happen in a five minute transaction - assisting others in need requires a process of collaboration. That’s why women experience greater emotional exhaustion than men. Source: Huffington Post

After working closely with leaders for the past twenty-seven years, I’ve made note that when I see a leader who is empathetic, socially intelligent, collaborative and a great multi-tasker, 8 times out of 10, that leader’s a woman.

Where are these superstar integrators?

They were already in place when COVID hit, solidly ensconced within the collaborative nodes of your organization. How did they get there? Gravity. They know more. They’re more helpful. They excel at integrative thinking and social intelligence. They are more respected, more capable and easier to work with.

These female integrators come wired with a dual drive, not just the urge to collaborate, but to collaborate for a yield. They love to move the needle and make a difference. Achievement matters to them. Productivity is paramount. As Dr. Teresa Amabile says, the quality of their inner work life is measured by one thing: making progress in meaningful work. Source: The Progress Principle

A rare and beautiful makeup. But it’s just this that makes them most susceptible to burnout in the world of Zoom. Why? Because integration and progress are the first victims to succumb in a virtual world.

Superstar integrators are at risk of burnout because they can’t stop driving for the collaborative progress they achieved pre-COVID but the new climate doesn’t support it. They will reach for the tools that used to be at their fingertips and discover they’re not there; team energy, mental clarity, group genius, providential collisions, the efficiency of elbow-to-elbow collaborations and social intelligence skills.

Despite being thwarted by these impaired resources, they won’t, they can’t right-size their expectations/deliverables because it’s too psychologically expensive. “If I start making those concessions my identity will unravel.”

Will your superstar integrators suffer burnout? Must they? Certainly not, and here’s why. You have other integrators, perhaps in field office positions who’ve been working virtually for years. They know why a life of videoconferencing can cause burnout, but they’ve discovered vital lessons we can all benefit from.

In the next two articles you’ll learn how the female integrator’s superpowers are thwarted in an all virtual no office world and the practical things leaders can do help her dodge the burnout bullet.

Source: Collaboration Overload https://hbr.org/2016/01/collaborative-overload

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Same Behavior, Different Consequences: Reactions to Men's and Women's Altruistic Citizenship Behavior.

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Journal ArticleDatabase: APA PsycArticles.

Heilman, M. E., & Chen, J. J. (2005). Same Behavior, Different Consequences: Reactions to Men's and Women's Altruistic Citizenship Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(3), 431–441. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.90.3.431

Source: Amabile, Theresa and Kramer, Steve. “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work” (Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 2011) p.3

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