We are all told that commitment, dedication and good performance are only part of the formula for being a valuable asset to the company. We must always "go the extra mile".

I consider myself an excellent performer and have often been awarded for being an outstanding employee. I am young and quite early in my career, but have noticed that "going the extra mile" has, in different ways, affected my general well-being - including some recurring health issues and new health issues from time to time.

I tried becoming "smarter" about how I work, working less and delegating more, leaving work on time; but I feel that puts me back in terms of performance. The managers chat and make decisions informally after hours. I would not even have time for networking.

I am not sure whether others have been in my situation, but right now I feel that "going the extra mile" - in the long run - is hurting me very badly.

I don't even know if some of the health conditions I have developed will ever be reversible.

So, do you think it is possible - and how - to be a great outstanding employee and performer without negatively affecting my general well-being? To climb in the corporate career ladder without making trade-offs with health?


4 Answers 4


First off, you have to live with your body long after this job has been relegated to a distant memory. Your health is far more important than this job and under no circumstances should you sacrifice it to get ahead.

Now to answer your question, I think all you really need to do is simply give it your all in the time you have, and excel in other ways as Garrison Neely stated. If you giving the extra mile is involving endless hours of staying back and restless nights, cut back to your contractual hours and only stay back if there is absolutely no alternative (i.e. to meet deadlines). If you find yourself forced to do this often, once again your health is more important and you need to find another job, or another career.

As a personal anecdote to illustrate what I mean by giving your all in the time you have: I use to work for a large, well known company where many of my coworkers would "go the extra mile" by staying back. I never once stayed back for more than a few minutes, but I was a hard worker and it showed.

I spent time automating repetitive tasks our team had to do through scripting, recommended then implemented software to help us improve efficiency with our tasks and worked on developing our online knowledge base as it was neglected by most of our team. When a new position opened up in the team, I was the one who was promoted and not the guy who was always in the office. Reason why? When upper management were looking at documentation, or asking how we managed to do a task faster than normal - it was my name popping up and not anyone else's.


When your peers work long hours, it's difficult to stand out above them without pulling the same long hours.

Some options I can think of:

  • Come in later: If the important stuff happens after close of business, come in late so you can have these discussions while still on the clock.

  • Find other ways to shine. If your dept has a training budget, work on getting your employees to take advantage of it. If your engineers are stifled by a large amount of meetings, set aside a period every week where heads-down work can be done (we called this "No Meeting Tuesday Afternoon").

  • Ask your boss what s/he needs help with and do your best to perform those duties. Your boss may be taken aback at first, but it will show initiative, and help you stand out w/o having to be seen late at night.

It is good you are trying to limit your overwork. You won't be able to cut it out completely, but working late isn't the only way to shine in a workplace.


Endurance athletes are taught that if they push very hard -- if their exertion gets ahead of the their respiration -- lactic acid builds up in their muscles and causes discomfort. So, they're taught, plan to push hard only for short periods of time, and then give time for the lactic acid to clear out. Pace yourself! they're taught.

Sometimes in the workplace there's a need to push very hard. Many kinds of office-based knowledge work has "crunch time" when a lot needs to be finished quickly. If this might be your situation ask a more experienced colleague "how do you pace yourself?"

Keep in mind that "you go the extra mile" for somebody. It's a New Testament metaphor: The Roman occupying soldiers in Palestine in antiquity used to conscript random peasants to carry their packs for one mile. Jesus suggested that his followers surprise the soldiers by "going the extra mile" when this happens. It's a way for peasants to get the oppressing soldiers to rethink their oppression. It's a visible way for a low-power person to say "I am somebody and so are you! See? I can actually help make your life a little easier!"

For whom are you going the extra mile? If it's for your department's or your company's customers, and you're surprising and delighting them, that's great, and it's most likely worth doing.

Somebody needs to benefit from your extra mile. The extra mile you go helps build relationships and mutual trust. If your extra miles are not doing that, they are pointless. Try taking a short break instead.


First - I think you need to ask your doctor some hard questions. If your job is causing you health problems, your doctor should tell you. Very little work in the Western world today can actually cause you health problems.

Lack of physical activity can. Stressing about work can, but actual work, short of being a fireman, soldier, or law enforcement, is safer and healthier than at any point in history. I'd like to know what your profession is.

The 40-hour work week is much shorter than most previous generations ever conceived. Even a 50 or 55-hour work week should not (realistically) be causing you any health issues, although it may be causing social issues.

I would have a hard time believing that the work is causing your health problems. Your expectations about what work should be and the stress of dealing with what is actually required could be causing them. You may need to see a mental health professional, in that case.

Also, depending on your doctor's advice, starting out the day with a light, high-carb "snack" (even just a glass of OJ), a 40 minute workout at the gym, and then a healthy breakfast can do wonders for your overall feeling of health and wellness.

You need to talk to your doctor, and perhaps even a counselor, but I seriously doubt that work is what is making you ill.

  • 2
    Great advice about health, but it's not really answering the question. Commented May 15, 2014 at 20:44
  • 1
    Well - the nature of my work does require physical INactivity (and you know, "Sitting is the new smoking"; please Google it in case you don't know) and there is also plenty of stress and working at night sometimes means lack of proper sleep. I am a very self-confident person, and have yet to find people who are never stressed at work, especially in my profession. Actually, I feel like in my profession not being may be a sign that one is not working! So, I am not entirely sure we can agree that an office job is without health risks due to the mere fact of being seated. Commented May 15, 2014 at 20:53
  • @HikingViking: I'm curious, what do you do? If your entire profession is such that you have physical issues in performing then perhaps you should look for a new career.
    – NotMe
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 22:25
  • @GarrisonNeely - "So, do you think it is possible - and how - to be a great outstanding employee and performer without negatively affecting my general well-being? To climb in the corporate career ladder without making trade-offs with health?" - I thought I was on-target. The OP's health seems to be the central issue. At least that's how I read it. Commented May 16, 2014 at 1:02

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