Burnout. Seems like everybody has it, but nobody knows how to deal with it. Feel familiar?
The World Health Organization (WHO) now includes “Burnout” in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon.
It’s not classified as a medical condition (though it can certainly lead to medical conditions), and is defined as, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- Feeling of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- Reduced professional efficacy.”
This article from Forbes notes that 81% of leaders admit that they do not know how to successfully reduce employee burnout. I would guess that number is even higher.
All this is to say that if you are stymied as to how to deal with and prevent burnout — whether among your team members or within yourself — you are certainly not alone.
But here’s the thing: burnout is preventable. Let’s talk about it.
The Complicated Issue of Burnout
In the fall of 2012, my Naturopath diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue, which is an adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress. Essentially, it’s a “lack of oomph”; my adrenal glands were unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight stimulation. I had chronic fatigue, body aches, and low blood pressure, but what could I do?
My Naturopath prescribed me three months laying alone on a beach. HA! Hello? Full-time single mom with more than a full-time job, here! The beach sounds great and all, but there was no way that was going to happen.
By January 2013, I thought I was going to die. I found myself Googling, “heart attack symptoms in women” more than once because I was convinced that my stress level was going to cause a heart attack or stroke.
The voice inside me whispering that something had to change was now screaming at me. By November 2013, I quit my job and took a 15-month sabbatical.
I was completely and utterly burned out.
Today, I see the symptoms of burnout all over the place. The funny thing is, we all know about it, and even talk about it, but even so, we don’t make changes. It’s like we’re all watching a car accident in slow motion: we see it happening within ourselves and within others, and we can’t look away, and we don’t take action to stop it because we don’t know what to do.
Our Leaders Don’t Have the Skills to Prevent Burnout
Burnout is preventable if only our leaders had the skills to help their employees!
Here are some less-than-impactful things a manager would probably do to help an employee who expresses feeling burned out:
- Take a to-do item off their plate.
- Give them a day off.
- Tell them to listen to a meditation app for 5 minutes.
Guess what? None of these things are going to stop that employee from becoming burned out.
Here are some things a manager should do to prevent an employee from burning out:
- Equip their HR staff with training in workplace wellness practices, coaching skills, psychological safety, and mental health awareness.
- Train leaders in how to incorporate these practices into their day-to-day interactions with their teams.
- Ensure mental health awareness is a skill that is taught to all leaders in the business.
- Coach leaders in how to shift from toxically positive behaviors (“smile, it will all work out!”) to actively listening, displaying real empathy, and helping their team members find solutions that really work.
These are skills that can be taught. When they are effectively implemented across an organization, employees will be more engaged and productive, and your retention rates will improve.
Ready to Prevent Burnout on Your Team?
If you are ready to dive deep and learn how to prevent burnout on your team (and within yourself), I’d like to help you get there. Reach out today to schedule a session.
Photo Source: CommuniTree Outdoor Education