Employee burnout is nothing new, but right now, it’s at an all-time high. An “always on” work culture is beginning to take a toll on employees who feel the need to overcompensate when working from home and will often reply to important emails for 16 hours of their day. So if you’re feeling frustrated and stressed out, you’re not alone. A Deloitte survey revealed that 77% of people had reported feelings of burnout in their current position.
There are several ways you can try to protect yourself against burnout, but most people find out when it’s too late. Early signs of burnout can begin with a lack of energy, enthusiasm, and difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task. But this can quickly escalate into irritability, restlessness, and feeling of isolation. In addition, those affected often blame themselves for not working smarter and more efficiently. One of the most critical aspects of managing burnout is to find the courage to speak up. Although you may feel that’s easier said than done, here are three tips to get the ball rolling.
Meet managers where they are
Remember, hitting rock bottom and feeling burnt does not mean you are incapable of doing your job. It just means you need a little help and support. Your manager is a human being too. They could be going through similar struggles, and they should be familiar with the employee burnout crisis that is currently affecting every workplace in every industry.
Your first step should be requesting one-on-one meetings with your manager to address concerns and ask important questions. By meeting your manager where they are, you can communicate the burnout signs you have noticed and ask for guidance. These conversations are also an excellent opportunity to challenge assumptions that you may have mistakenly made that contributed to your burnout.
In many cases, it’s the expectations that we put on ourselves that cause us the most harm. For example, your manager could be completely unaware that you are working late most nights. When your boss sends you an email late at night during their quiet time, they might not expect you to respond immediately and expected you to respond during regular office hours. When meeting your manager where they are, you could learn more about the expectations you are putting on yourself.
Try to talk openly about your thoughts, fears, and hopes. Many leaders understand the value in you being brave enough to speak up and voice your concerns. Your thoughts and fears and hopes actually help managers see when something needs to change and how they can help you improve your approach as an individual and as an organization.
Be specific and honest about the symptoms you’re experiencing and the challenges you face each day. But be careful not to come across as someone who is complaining, ranting, and blaming others. Ironically, telling your boss that you are burnt out because of how much work they assign you could leave your manager feeling burnt out too.
Rather than fall into the blame game trap, it should be seen as an opportunity for you to ask your manager for help and that you want to be a part of the solution. As an employee, your honesty and solutions-oriented attitude are critical when asking for guidance. By being honest, you can unlock a collaborative approach that enables you and your manager to work towards the same goal.
Practice active listening
Through my work listening to employees, I’ve perceived that many feel a disconnect between their struggles, wants, and desires and what the management team understands about the front line. When we feel like our voices are heard, we begin to believe that our opinion and insights matter. When those we look to for guidance fail to listen and respond to our voices, it can feel like they are rejecting a part of us.
In an environment where we feel listening is lacking, we feel less fulfilled and that the work we do has less meaning or the people around us don’t care for us. But it’s a two-way street, and active listening is a vital skill for everyone in an organization. As an employee, you also have a responsibility to show your manager that you actively listen to what they say.
A huge part of active listening is seeking to understand another person without an agenda and with a service mindset. It can also help you gain objective insight into your situation. For example, active listening in conversations with your boss will help establish a relationship of trust, understanding, and a united viewpoint that can transform challenges into opportunities.
As we continue to explore new ways of working, burnout statistics are likely to increase until we find the right balance. Over the last 18 months, many employers have been working behind the scenes to determine how they can help keep employees engaged and happy with just email and video conferencing to communicate.
Burnout is providing a learning experience for both employees and their managers. These are just a few reasons why we need to build a more collaborative process that brings teams together to learn where our collective understanding and potential will take us when we finally solve the burnout problem once and for all.
Heather R. Younger is the bestselling author of The Art of Caring Leadership and an international speaker, consultant, adjunct organizational leadership professor, and facilitator who has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer.”