Going the extra mile at work leaves employees emotionally exhausted and grappling with work-family conflict, research has found.
The study, by the University of Bath and King’s College London, involved employees at a UK customer call centre for a retail bank.
It found the side-effects of being conscientious at work were more striking when employees were already doing well.
Such workers were faced with sustaining high performance alongside extra tasks and responsibilities.
Managers were more likely to delegate the extra work to them because of their hard-working and dependable nature.
Employees reported that they felt emotionally drained and “used up” because of their work and were struggling with balancing it alongside family life.
Dr Bruce Rayton, from the University of Bath’s School of Management, said: “Conscientious workers typically don’t want to let down their employers or customers.
“They throw themselves into their job, consistently making an extra effort, to the extent that when they get home at the end of the day, they feel physically and emotionally exhausted.
“Essentially they’re experiencing a type of burnout, and that’s damaging to health and wellbeing, and family life.”
Increasing competitive pressures cause employers, particularly those in customer service, to look for ways to improve organisational performance.
Researchers say this typically involves urging employees to be “good citizens” by going the extra mile at work. As well as improving the performance of the team and organisation, it puts employees in good stead with managers for decisions on performance ratings, promotion, training and pay.
However, little has been known about the effect of this perceived “win-win” on personal and family life, they added.
The team studied a number of types of behaviour that could impact on employee wellbeing, including helping colleagues at work and avoiding work conflict.
Conscientiousness was seen to be more time-consuming and therefore have a greater impact.
Professor Stephen Deery, from King’s College London’s School of Management and Business, who led the research, said: “At the moment, individuals are faced with balancing the benefits of a better appraisal against the cost to health and family time.
“Companies that are designing people-management policies need to ensure that the short-term gains made by encouraging employees to go the extra mile are not outweighed in the longer-term by the personal costs of this behaviour.”
The researchers studied a final sample of 79 employees through surveys completed by call-centre supervisors and customer service agents.
The study, entitled The Costs Of Exhibiting Organisational Citizenship Behaviour, was published in Human Resource Management.