Two Responses to the Epidemic of Workplace Burnout

AdVance Leadership » Two Responses to the Epidemic of Workplace Burnout

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #067. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll explore the three stages of burnout and four ways to help your team overcome it.

1 Insight

The majority of the workforce has experienced burnout in the last year, and leaders play a key role in combatting it.

Imagine it’s a random Monday. On your way to the office, you get a text from one of your employees. He says he’s not feeling well and won’t be at work today. You tell him that you hope he feels better.
No big deal, right?
But over the next 10 minutes you hear from 65% of your team. They tell you that they’re all going to miss work today. If that many people called in sick in one day, you would have two possible responses: skepticism or curiosity.
According to a recent survey from iSolved65% of employees have experienced burnout in the last year. 
In one way, this is good news: it’s down from 75% in 2022. But 65% still adds up to nearly 105 million employees in America saying they’re experiencing burnout.
You can respond to these numbers with skepticism, doubting their accuracy or consequences. Or you can respond with curiosity, wanting to learn more about causes, effects, and solutions.

Skepticism or Curiosity

As a leader, you might be suspicious about these numbers. After all, “burnout” seems to be a trendy term. It’s like the word “gaslighting.” No one ever talked about gaslighting until recently. Now, it seems like everyone’s being gaslighted.
Before you decide to be skeptical, get curious by asking a few questions:

  1. What does burnout look like?
  2. What are the effects of burnout?
  3. How can I help my team?

What does burnout look like?

Dr. Christina Maslach is the pioneer of research regarding workplace burnout. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford is a currently a professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1981, she developed the Maslach Burnout Inventory. In 1997, she was award the U.S. Professor of the Year award.
She identified three stages of burnout:
Stage 1: Emotional Exhaustion
Dr. Maslach described it this way: “People feel drained and used up. Their emotional resources are depleted and there’s no source for replenishment.”
It’s the feeling when you wake up every morning and think, I just don’t have it in me to do this today.
Stage 2: Depersonalization
Maslach wrote: “Individuals put distance between themselves and those whose needs and demands are overwhelming…. [I]ndividuals develop poor opinions of others and expect the worst from them, even actively disliking them.”
People in this stage:

  • Get annoyed with interruptions
  • Groan when their kids need help
  • Roll their eyes when a coworker needs their help
  • Feel angry at customers who need help or complain

Stage 3: Hopelessness
Dr. Maslach captured this stage as “a feeling of hopelessness that is a result of a reduced sense of accomplishment.”
In this stage it doesn’t matter how hard you work or what you accomplish. It all feels meaningless, like it’s never enough.

The Effects of Burnout

Once you know what burnout looks like, it helps to understand some of the effects of burnout.
Alex Soojun-Kim Pang is the author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. He describes the effects of burnout this way“Workers suffering from burnout become detached from work or less empathetic to colleagues and customers and feel that their work has little value to themselves or to the world. It can also create marriage and family problems and contribute to depressionpoor health, and especially among formerly hard charging and career-oriented people, higher rates of suicide.”

How to Help Your Team

In 2019, the World Health Organization reported that burnout at work was an “occupational phenomenon.” Then COVID hit, and the news about burnout got buried as the world tried to beat a pandemic.
COVID is no longer the headliner, but burnout is still affecting us – 65% of us!
As a leader, here are 4 ways that you can help your team beat burnout:

1. Talk about it.

Burnout doesn’t need to be an “elephant in the room.” Talk about it with your team. Share the three stages of burnout. Ask them what symptoms they’re experiencing.
It takes a high level of trust to have these conversations, but these conversations can build the trust your team has for you.

2. Communicate boundaries.

It’s easier than ever to work at all hours of the day. Share your expectations around taking work home and doing work on the weekends. Be aware that if you’re practicing after-hours communication,  your team will believe they need to do the same.

3. Limit priorities and projects.

As priorities and projects are added, stress multiplies. Most people can balance no more than three priorities. When competing priorities pop up, communicate to your team where these new priorities fall in the ranking.

4. Host an Unleashed Leadership Capacity Workshop.

At AdVance Leadership, we train managers and leaders in your company in 7 traits that solve 95% of leadership challenges. One of those traits is Capacity: your leaders need the time, energy, and attention to guide people toward the vision.
The biggest obstacle to Capacity is busyness — an overcommitment to too many good commitments. Busyness also creeps in as a stealthy cause of burnout.
Dr. Christina Maslow first wrote about burnout in 1986. At that time, her belief was that helping professions (e.g. doctors, nurses, clergy) were the most prone to burnout.
By 2003, she had changed her mind. Dr. Maslach realized the group most prone to burnout is not helping professions but, rather, busy people.
Most people you work with are really busy, and it starts with your company’s leaders. In a Capacity workshop, we help leaders:

  • Understand what busyness is.
  • See how overcommitment harms them physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and how it reduces productivity.
  • Manage their time and energy so they bring their best to work.
  • Free up 5-10 hours per work through effective delegation.
  • Develop proven strategies to beat burnout and help others do the same.

The best part of a Capacity workshop: it helps your team accomplish bigger priorities by removing the obstacles of busyness and burnout. Contact us to set up a time to talk about how we help your organization achieve bigger goals and improve employee wellbeing.

1 Action

In your next team meeting, take time to discuss if your team is burning out.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

  1. Get your team to subscribe to the Friday411 newsletter.
  2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as “one of the books everyone on your team should read.”
  3. Email Garland to train your company’s leaders. We will equip them with 7 traits that solve 95% of their leadership challenges.
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