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Business leaders across the board agree that their most significant 2021 leadership challenge is employee morale. Employees and business leaders are experiencing extreme fatigue from yoyo good news/bad news reports; too many Zoom calls; operating in isolation; and the professional, personal and family stress of the pandemic lifestyle.
Simply said, leaders and employees are experiencing burnout.
A recent Gallup survey states that nearly 23 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes.
This means that about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.
This same Gallup poll lists the top signs of employee burnout to be real, or perceived, unfair treatment at work; unmanageable workload; lack of role clarity; lack of communication and support from their manager and unreasonable time pressures. Recent additions would of course be isolation, lack of social interaction or acknowledgement for their efforts.
You may identify with one or more of the three most common types of burnout — Overload Burnout, Underchallenge Burnout and Neglect Burnout.
In Overload Burnout, people work harder and more frenetically to succeed. They are willing to risk their physical and mental health, personal and professional relationships and the many joys of their personal life in pursuit of their ambition. For most, their pursuit is also to feel ‘good enough’ through excelling professional expectations. Most cope by complaining.
In Underchallenge Burnout, employees feel that their talents are not being recognized, that they are not seen for all that they can offer. They are not appreciated. Boredom from lack of learning opportunities sets in. As these employees find no passion or enjoyment in their work, they cope by distancing themselves from their job. They may be physically but not mentally or emotionally present. Their coping mechanism is cynicism, avoidance of responsibility and overall disruptive disengagement.
In Neglect Burnout, one feels helpless at work. Again unseen for who they are and what specifically they can offer, these employees feel incompetent, unable to stay ahead of the demands of their job. These employees are often passive and unmotivated.
Now that we know the types of burnout, what signs do leaders need be aware of in order to avoid employee disruption and turnover?
- Inability to concentrate in people who are typically highly focused.
- Easily upset or angered in people who typically let things roll off their backs.
- Recurring sickness in otherwise healthy employees.
- Difficulty sleeping. This is easily seen in sluggish behavior and body language.
- Feelings of alienation at work, a huge concern this past year.
- Cynicism towards people and their job from otherwise motivated people.
Burnout can be avoided through leaders taking action. Take time to look at the individuals in their teams. Ask questions. What are their deepest interests? What do they genuinely want to do? In what way do they want to grow and excel? What is their true motivation? How do they come alive at work? Are they more creative and productive working individually or in a team?
Additionally, HR experts and executive coaches agree on the following methods to avoid or cure burnout:
- Be a role model. Realize your own level of burnout and employ self-care methods.
- Provide positive feedback, acknowledgement and encouragement repeatedly.
- Provide clear, realistic expectations. Make sure those expectations are understood.
- Provide resources employees need. Encourage outside courses, supportive activities.
- Offer ongoing coaching and training. Encourage employees to seek new opportunities.
- Continually show employees their value and contributions to the organization’s goals.
- Enforce reasonable and flexible work hours, including encouraging breaks.
- Help assess workloads for those who may feel pressured to work beyond normal business hours.
- Encourage social support among team members through strong, respective boundaries.
You are never too large or small of a company to help your employees avoid or blast through burnout. For example, software giant SAP, with employees topping 100,000 worldwide, recently took a companywide mental health day off. They had no expectations of their people on this day off. Their message was “go out and enjoy yourselves, your mental health is important to us.”
I encourage you to know that burnout is a reality of our current business climate. There is no judgement, rather understanding and compassion.
For the health of your business, I challenge you to take a look first at yourself, and then at your people. Assess what, if any, level of burnout exists. Then take action to help all involved break free from their burnout. Far-reaching benefits spread quickly to your employees, their families, your clients and customers. A business with a thriving and healthy employee culture is certainly one with whom I want to do business. Wouldn’t you?
Executive and Leadership Coach Ann Golden Eglé, MCC, has steered successful individuals to greater levels of success since 1998. Ann is President of Golden Visions & Associates, LLC, can be reached at 541-385-8887, firstname.lastname@example.org or GVAsuccess.com. Subscribe to Ann’s internationally acclaimed ‘Success Thoughts’ e-zine on her website.