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Preventing Burnout

We all know what burnout looks like. It’s the co-founder working 130 hour weeks, the employee with 100 tasks and no assistance or the team with unobtainable sales targets.

It is so common that anyone in any career is susceptible to burnout. Despite being so common, many managers aren’t aware of how to prevent it from happening. Being able to understand burnout, its causes, and how to prevent it is therefore essential in order to maintain a positive environment and keep the best talent on the team.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is an individual’s response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors within the workplace (Maslach et al., 2001).

It doesn’t simply result from working too many hours in a high-demand environment. Rather, it is a multidimensional response with many complex causes.


How to Know if an Employee is Burned Out:

workplace burnout triangle

  1. Exhaustion results from the depletion of emotional resources to cope with the current work environment. This is the stressed out, overwhelmed employee.
  2. Cynicism is an individual’s distant attitude toward the job. This is the disgruntled employee.
  3. Inefficacy is a reduction in personal accomplishment. This is the stressed out employee who has developed a cynical attitude and has given up trying.


Causes of Burnout

Work-Related Factors

Job Demands – overwhelming job demands. Picture the team member with a stack of papers, a two page to-do list, and a panicked look.

Role Conflict – conflicting job demands. This is the co-founder who is texting his engineering team while at a meeting.

Role Ambiguity – a lack of information to do the job well.

Lack of Resources – improper training or inadequate resources to execute the job effectively. This is the new engineer told to “go for it” with a HP from 2013.

Lack of Social Support – lack of social support from supervisors has more of an effect on burnout than lack of social support from co-workers.

Lack of Feedback – Feedback is like hard work; if you don’t give it, you’ll never get exactly what you want.

Little Participation in Decision Making – the less involved employees are in decision making processes, the higher the rates of burnout. Time to delegate.


Personality Factors

Workload Mismatch – overloaded with work or performing the wrong kind of work. An example of this is the engineer who is transferred to the marketing team and feels useless.

Mismatch in Control – insufficient control over the resources needed to do their work effectively or insufficient authority to pursue their work in the most effective manner. This is an individual working for a non-profit who lacks the funds necessary to execute her strategy.

Lack of Appropriate Awards

  1. Insufficient financial rewards – not receiving salary or benefits commensurate with achievements.
  2. Lack of social rewards – when hard work is ignored and not appreciated by others.
  3. Lack of intrinsic rewards – lacking pride in doing something important and doing it well.

We all know the hard-working, underappreciated employee who quits after receiving news that he will be denied a raise (again) due to budget cuts.

Loss of a Positive Connection with Others – feeling ostracized or not sharing similar values with the group.

Unfairness – unequal workload or pay. This is the frustration that results in the workplace when the super-friendly but under-qualified staffer is promoted due to her friendship with the manager.

Conflict between values – doing something not in accordance with their own values.

Burnout is an individual experience that is influenced by social, organizational, personality factors, and/or an interaction among all three. The relationship of the individual with their work can be disrupted by any one, or a combination of, these factors resulting in burnout.


Effects of Burnout in the Workplace

Burnout not only affects the employee’s performance, but impacts the performance of the team and work environment. Below are 7 effects of burnout in the workplace:

  1. Job withdrawal: Intention to leave the job, Absenteeism, Turnover
  2. Lower productivity
  3. Ineffectiveness
  4. Decreased job satisfaction
  5. Reduced commitment to the job or organisation
  6. Greater personal conflict with colleagues
  7. Disrupts coworkers’ job tasks

Creating a work environment that prevents burnout and is conducive to productivity, employee engagement, and overall satisfaction is critical to having an amazing team.

How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace

No manager, co-founder, or CEO wants to lose their best talent to burnout. However, most don’t know that their employee is burned out until it is too late.

Below are 10 ways to prevent burnout in your company:

1. Be Realistic When Assigning Tasks. Delegate an amount of work that is challenging, but not overwhelming.

2. Keep Reasonable Work Hours. Employees differ on how many hours they can work. Don’t ask too much of your employees. Allow for sick days, paid time off, and vacation days.

3. Be Flexible. When a deadline is unrealistic, change it so it is attainable. If someone who is assigned a task isn’t the right person for the job, re-assign it.

4. Don’t Spread Your Team Too Thin. Reduce the number of parallel tasks that an individual or team is working on. Ensure that they are not overwhelmed with their to-do list.

5. Equip Your Team With Proper Tools. Set your employees up for success with the right tools to execute flawlessly. Ensure that there are sufficient funds to execute strategies effectively and ensure that they know their job well through training.

6. Provide Ample Support. Managers should spend time listening to and addressing employees’ concerns.

7. Encourage Socialising. A moderate amount of socialisation is optimal for team bonding to occur.

8. Acknowledge, Reward, and Promote. Each employee’s contribution to the company should be acknowledged. Reward excellent performances with bonuses, awards, and promotions.

9. Make Their Voice Heard. When an employee expresses frustration or concern, address it immediately. Make sure that they know you are taking appropriate action or give an explanation as to why you can’t meet their needs.

10. Increase Coping Skills. Help employees increase their ability to handle and prevent stress. Hire a professional to teach coping skills and relaxation techniques through workshops or a workplace wellbeing programme.

Burnout is a common phenomenon that no one is immune to. It is important to structure your work environment to ensure every employee feels happy and motivated and has the tools and support they need to succeed.

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