Editor’s note: Triangle entrepreneur and thought leader Jes Averhart, CEO of Jes & Co and host of the “Reinvention Road Trip,” is a regular WRAL TechWire contributor who explores topics pertaining to reinvention, especially prompted by the onset of the global pandemic. Her columns appear weekly. This is the second of a four-part packager about “performance culture.”

Note to readers: WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: info@wraltechwire.com.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – So last week I introduced the topic of performance culture. And boy, oh boy, do companies love to talk about their performance cultures. If you ever find yourself in the middle of one of these discussions you might feel like you’re talking to an alchemist. CEOs and mid-level managers alike can’t pass up the opportunity to share the magic behind mixing stretch goals with high performers in pursuit of superior results.

And while I get it…this obsession with performance feeds the narrative that to land a Series A, be considered for the SVP role or have a storybook ‘meet-cute’ you must be perfect in just about every way.

Jes Averhart. (Photo via Rachel Mork)

We see it at work, on social feeds and in the ways we talk about our lives with others. Even Hollywood has picked up on this, in shows like WeCrashed and Super Pumped.

We’re becoming addicted to the pursuit of perfection.

Now listen, I’m a high-performer and the idea of turning away from performance culture can be a little scary. After all, aren’t the two things connected?  The answer is…not always. A high performer who operates outside the influence of performance culture and a performance culture addict have two very different vibes.

It’s time for an anti-performance culture movement – here’s why, says TechWire columnist

A measured high performer is often vibrant, productive and energized, connected to the work but able to say no before the point of overwhelm. On the other hand, a performance culture addict is reactive and driven to over-sacrifice and over-perform. They often feel anxious, burnt out and/or resentful.

Still not sure which camp you fall in?  These questions might help.

  • Do you feel you need to earn the right to rest?
  • Do you forsake your personal core values to win at work?
  • When you see someone ‘killin’ it’, are you tempted to tear them down privately and undervalue their accomplishments publicly?
  • Have you convinced yourself that if you slow down, someone else will run you over?
  • Do you believe that joy and fulfillment can live in the quiet moments or do you see those moments as ‘wasted opportunities’?

If you felt yourself get a little defensive when you read those questions, you’re not alone. It’s easy to fall in to the addiction of performance culture. But instead of pointing a finger, ask why you felt uneasy or defensive. An exercise like this can be so valuable in understanding what’s at the heart of your decisions.

Any my hot take: we don’t need to chase perfection to be relevant. In fact, I would argue that giving our quirks and imperfections room to breathe makes space for a whole new and authentic kind of magic.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next two parts of this series, in which we’ll dig deeper into both understanding and countering performance culture. See you then!