According to the Mayo Clinic, employee burnout, is a state of exhaustion (physical, mental, and/or emotional) coupled with self-doubt in regards to one’s own competence and value. An employee suffering from burnout will exhibit changes in behavior and attitude; he or she will often become irritable, unmotivated, and unproductive. Cynics might argue that burnout is inevitable in the workplace and skeptics may claim that burnout only affects people in highly stressful jobs. In actuality, burnout is neither inevitable nor certain. Although it is true that members of certain professions (doctors, teachers, social workers, e.g.) are more prone to burnout than the general population, other industries experience a fair share as well. Managers, supervisors, and other workplace leaders (along with Human Resources (HR) professionals) can combat burnout by following the guidelines below.
1. Clearly explain job responsibilities from the beginning.
You can dramatically decrease the likelihood of burnout at the earliest stages of the hiring process. When you write the job description, make sure that you clearly explain the responsibilities and expectations of the position. Even if it’s unintentional, new employees who feel that the realities of their jobs were misrepresented can quickly begin to feel frustrated and disillusioned.
2. Give clear objectives and feedback.
Few situations are more frustrating than being forced to guess what your boss wants. Don’t put your employees through that: give your team clear objectives for their duties and projects. On a similar note, most people need to know if they are on the right track regarding performance. It is incredibly demoralizing to complete a project only to be told that you had done everything incorrectly. Don’t micromanage but do check in periodically. Give honest, constructive feedback.
3. Provide proper training.
While learning by doing is often an effective method of training, it’s not always ideal. Ensure that your employees know how to do what you need them to do. This could be in the form of corporate learning, compliance training, or even continuing education. For the latter, consider offering tuition reimbursement for employees to further their careers.
4. Offer support when possible.
Sometimes personal problems can derail professional goals. Employees are people: they have responsibilities beyond getting their work completed by end of day. Some are caretakers for elderly or sick loved ones, some might be struggling with health issues themselves, a few might be experiencing turmoil at home. You must consider the big picture when you spot early signs of burnout in an otherwise stellar employee. Many larger companies offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help workers who are experiencing personal crises. Even small firms can support their team members, though. Encourage your employees to share their frustrations or work-related struggles with members of management or HR. Direct employees to counselling services. If your company does have an EAP, make sure that your employees are aware of it.
5. Voice your concerns.
As a workplace leader, you have the power to go advocate for your team. Talk to those in charge (the HR department perhaps, or maybe the CEO) and explain what you see. Even the most cynical executive will care about burnout once you mention the affect it has on your company’s bottom line. You could also lobby for a better work-life balance, an effective method for preempting burnout!
You might have noticed that most of these tips boil down to one concept:communication. You must be able to communicate with your employees if you want to succeed as manager, not to mention as a business. Even if you are unable to prevent burnout, you can still react to it in a productive manner.