The dreaded condition - burnout. It creeps through your office like a slow fog. It’s easy to miss at first, but once burnout sets in, it’s nearly impossible to navigate forward. A recent study by Gallup found that 70% of employees either sometimes or often feel burned out at work.
Burnout isn’t just “needing a break” from work. It’s a state of chronic job stress that results in overall frustration, exhaustion, and defeat.
One burned-out employee leads to another. And worse – burnout can lead to turnover…which can lead to additional burnout in your remaining employees. As a manager, it’s up to you to recognize the signs of burnout and ensure you have practices in place to prevent it from taking over.
Match Talent to Task
When people have the opportunity to utilize their talents, they have higher levels of investment, satisfaction, and productivity. On the other hand, when people lean heavily on things that don’t come naturally to them, they become easily frustrated and exhausted (not coincidentally, two symptoms of burnout).
Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on your team and take the time to ask questions. What part of the job really energizes someone, and what really saps their energy? The answers will likely be eye-opening. Everyone on your team has unique strengths. Align your people with responsibilities and tasks that allow them to do what they do best.
The easiest way to identify burnout is when an employee tells you: I’m burned out. If you don’t have a culture of transparency, your employees aren’t likely to open up. Establish psychological safety by ensuring people know it’s okay to speak up, share feelings, state opinions, and make mistakes.
If this isn’t common in your organization already, set the stage by setting an example. Use vulnerability with your team and admit when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Share mistakes you’ve made and lessons you’ve learned. Ask them for feedback and suggestions for improvement. As your employees begin opening up to you in return, show empathy and truly listen to what they’re saying rather than just listening to respond.
Provide Feedback and Recognition
Imagine heading on a road trip and typing your destination into your GPS. Now imagine your GPS didn’t give you any directions along the way, but it finally recognized when you reached your destination. How easy would it have been to find your destination? What are the chances that you even ended up in the right place?
Feedback and recognition are like your GPS. Rather than just recognizing when your people reach their “destination,” you need to recognize them and provide feedback along the way. People need to know how they’re doing, and they need to know they’re heading in the right direction.
Feedback and recognition always need to be intentional, but if you’re in a working model where you’re not face-to-face every day, they need to be even more intentional. Develop a consistent habit to ensure you’re connecting with everyone frequently.
Focus on People
At the end of the day, the heart of your organization is your people. Focus on building relationships with everyone and ensure they know you’re there to support them. Use insight and intuition when interacting with everyone, and be genuine in your conversations. If your Spidey senses kick in when you’re talking with someone, ask yourself:
- Is this unusual behavior?
- Does this seem out of character?
If your answer is “yes,” ask meaningful questions to get to the bottom of your employee’s feelings. Be open to their grievances, if they need to air them, feedback, and ideas. Someone experiencing burnout may have their own thoughts on how to turn things around.
If the burnout fog’s already set in with your employees, it isn’t too late for the fog to lift. Evaluate what you’re doing well, where you can take additional strides, and put a plan in place to make it happen.