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Managing Burnout

Burn out has grown so much so that it is now officially recognized problem by the world health organization.


The problem comes with real costs:


“When Stanford researchers looked into how workplace stress affects health costs and mortality in the United States, they found that it led to spending of nearly $190 billion — roughly 8% of national healthcare outlays — and nearly 120,000 deaths each year.”

These numbers are staggering and with a problem this big, it can become difficult for leaders to know where to start in addressing. So, where to begin?

A survey of 7,500 full-time employees by Gallup found the top five reasons for burnout are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work

  2. Unmanageable workload

  3. Lack of role clarity

  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager

  5. Unreasonable time pressure

The reasons for burnout give clues for leaders looking to solve the problem. If we break down each category a plan for managing burnout emerges:


Unfair treatment at work - Remember to be human centric in your approach. Take the time to intentionally check in with your people. Express gratitude for performance, offer the space for feedback and ask explicitly the question "how can I improve your day to day work experience?" Listen intently. Simply showing care has tremendous ROI.


Unmanageable workload - Understand and proactively manage workload of your people. Unmanageable workload is often not intentional, but rather results from a disconnect of what it will take to achieve role tasks and what is on a person's plate. Combat this by connecting directly with your people, taking extra time to understand what your people are working on and what it will take from them to be successful. Help them eliminate non mission critical tasks, break down long term outcomes with project management and adjust workload accordingly.


Lack of role clarity - Clearly define success for the role, communicate it and record it in writing. Ask and answer the question “what does success look like for this role?” be specific, define metrics and benchmarks, communicate it to your team and offer space for questions and feedback. Time spent upfront ensuring role clarity will prevent costly time wasted and burn out later.


Lack of communication and support from their manager - Set up regular cadences and touch points. This has become even more critical in our new virtual world void of hallway conversations and coffee chats. Set both regular meeting cadences and proactively check in as well as clearly communicate how best your people can ask you questions and get feedback. Use the questions: "What is going well? What are your top challenges? How can I support you?"


Unreasonable time pressure - Remember the R and the T in the SMART goal framework. (more on successful goal setting here.). Whenever possible make sure that your people's deadlines are reasonably time bound. Co-create deadlines with your people that create urgency while also inspiring confidence in completion. Mutually record buy off.


Retention and success of people is critical to the success of any organization. While employee burnout is a huge threat to these pillars, intentional people management based on the top 5 reasons for burnout can combat work related stress and lead to a better environment for all people within an organization.


For more information on how coaching can help prevent burnout, schedule 15 minutes with Jake here.



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©2020 by Jake Pereira