Before you delegate that project sitting on your desk to your top (and presently overwhelmed) employee so you’ll sleep better at night, you need to consider whether your actions will have that same affect on the person who receives your gift.
Many top achievers get much of their personal work satisfaction (ensoulment) from doing a worthwhile job with a high degree of quality. They actually define personal success by the quality of the work they do. What happens when you pile too much work on them? Their sense of achievement slips. They experience anxiety. If they bring up the subject with you and you respond by instructing them to “prioritize better” they will feel invalidated because your response does, in fact, invalidate them. And if you persist in not hearing their pleas that you understand them better, you may just lose them altogether.
So what to do?
Really get to know the people who work for you. How are they defining “success?” Cater to their definition as much as possible because the degree to which you can change that internal value is limited.
Be sure the workloads you delegate are really fair. Don’t assign every tough and high profile project to your top achievers. Give others a chance to shine and give your top dogs a break from the frenzied pace of the hunt.
Instead of telling someone to “prioritize,” help them to prioritize by telling them what work needs to be done at the highest quality, what work can be simply completed rote and what work can be killed altogether.
Stop being a coward. Say ‘no’ to your own boss. Or at least, “not right now.” Too many managers simply let unreasonable, stifling workloads flow downhill instead of speaking truth themselves. If you are whipping your employees and piling on the work because of your own personal internal stress, chances are you are also acting cowardly so you need to step up and first apply these principles to yourself.