Tackling Burnout – For Yourself AND Your Team

Stress is everywhere – in the global events happening around us, in our personal lives and often in our professional lives. In fact, workplace stress is the leading cause of “burnout”, a term first coined in 1974, and yet we still struggle to identify and address it.  We typically associate burnout as:

  • Feeling disconnected, emotionally distant, feeling numb, not enjoying work you once did.
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, gastrointestinal issues, back pain or fatigue/exhaustion.
  • Emotional symptoms like irritability, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and resentment.
  • Trouble focusing at work and home, missing deadlines, lower levels of productivity.

In short, it’s not “one little thing” and while it’s not considered a mental illness, burnout can be considered a mental health issue. It can be chronic in nature, affecting both the health and performance of employees at all levels of organizations (yes, even you).  As a leader, here are a few ideas on how to tackle this issue for yourself and your team:

Set Realistic Expectations

As a leader, set reasonable and realistic expectations for your teams and then frequently monitor their progress. If fewer than 50% of your people are achieving their KPIs, this could indicate your expectations are unrealistic. If you’re maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your team, they’ll have the opportunity to comfortably raise issues, and you’ll be able to spot out-of-the-ordinary behavior.

Communicate the Mission

Openly share your organization’s mission and goals for the future. Employees are significantly less likely to be burned out when they can connect their work to the company’s mission. Relating the two will help your team better understand the impact they have on the bigger picture.

Match Strengths to Opportunities

According to a recent Gallup poll, employees who have the opportunity to do what they do best are 57% less likely to frequently experience burnout. Struggling to perform in a role for which you are ill-suited is a perfect recipe for burnout. Actively engage with your team, get to know where they excel and then look for opportunities where they can shine. Recognize their achievements and encourage them to share their success stories. You’ll be amazed to watch the cycle repeat itself!

Encourage Real Time Off

Burnout often occurs when people aren’t given enough time to disconnect, rest and truly recharge. We have a reputation as a “no vacation nation” here in the US…with damaging effects. This is why it’s so important for leaders to create a culture where taking time off is not only allowed, but championed. And when employees do take time off, mandate a complete disconnect if at all possible.

… Even a Mini-Break

Your “time off” doesn’t need to be a full-fledged vacation though – try incorporating daily mini-breaks. These can be 15-minute walks, check-in calls with family members, coffee breaks with colleagues or getting in quick workouts over lunch. These little escapes can be great resets.

Provide a Choice to Overachievers

Overachievers frequently respond to work stress by taking on yet more work. They say “yes” to a tough new project when perhaps they shouldn’t. They often pick up the slack of under-performers around them. You can help high performers by presenting them with choices. Many leaders assume their overachievers only want to work on the most demanding projects. This may be true in some cases, but over time, this may move that employee further away from what they loved about their job in the first place. You may be surprised to see which projects a higher performing employee might actually enjoy when you give them a choice.

Many of the strategies in this article are meant to help you, as a leader in your organization, prevent burnout among your employees. But we hope you’ve also recognized how some of these approaches can directly help YOU tackle burnout. Pay attention, look for the signs and have a plan to remedy burnout before it makes its mark on your life or your organization.

The CFO Suite is a boutique consultative staffing and executive search firm specialized in management and executive level accounting and finance talent.  We boost the capabilities and capacity of your accounting and finance department, offering a unique ability to provide an integrated and comprehensive suite of services.