How To Handle Employee Burnout as a Manager (With Tips)

People may experience burnout when they have put in a lot of effort in a demanding situation without seeing any results. Compared to what is typically referred to as stress, it is much worse. People who are burned out feel trapped in psychological quicksand. They work days, nights, and weekends in a fruitless attempt to break free, exhausted by the constant pressure of balancing a tightrope between competing interests.

Levinson notes in the accompanying commentary that we can no longer rely solely on our employers to prevent burnout. Due to the current market’s extreme volatility, we hold jobs for much shorter periods of time. Additionally, our employers no longer anticipate us working with them for a long time. Therefore, we must become more self-reliant. We need to comprehend and utilize techniques for meeting our most basic needs. The best defense against burnout is choosing a career that allows us to “express who we are instead of what we do.”

Fifteen years ago, executive burnout was a new phenomenon. Not so anymore. Today extreme feelings of stress are pervasive and growing worse. Increased competition, downsizing, and reengineering have increased pressures at work. Dual-earner couples also experience time and energy shortages at home. In the 1990s, it is hard to find peace anywhere.

One major underlying assumption I had when I wrote “When Executives Burn Out” in 1981 was that senior management had a responsibility to prevent executive burnout. In the article, I offered suggestions for actions that leaders could take to reduce stress, including providing recreation and providing training.

This basic assumption now feels outdated. Why? Because the forces that are altering the environment in which we live and work have also altered the dynamics of the employer-employee relationship. The majority of businesses no longer anticipate having long-term relationships with their employees, as we regularly read in the newspaper. In response, employees—even executives—aim to avoid becoming overly reliant on any one job or employer. They no longer look to the employer to support them. They now look to themselves.

We are now in a new era of independence as a result of these changes, both psychologically and practically. We must solicit input, counsel, and moral support from family and friends on a personal level. On a professional level, each of us needs to create backup plans. If our current plan of action doesn’t work out, we have a fallback. In the modern world, we need to be more concerned with the variety of options that are open to us should the ladder disappear and we find ourselves forced to rely solely on our own resources.

Most of us have considered acquiring particular competencies (such as marketing techniques, financial analysis skills, or engineering specialization) when developing our careers. Skills are obviously important, but if they become dated, they won’t really matter to us as our tools of the trade. A particular skill will never be a reliable source of independence because it runs the risk of losing value in the market.

We need to consider our defining behaviors more in order to create appealing and realistic career options. We must comprehend the patterns of behavior we have cultivated since childhood, behaviors that express who we are rather than what we do. We bring our behaviors with us into everything we do, whether we are innately cool-headed, impulsively enthusiastic, artlessly charming, or born to persevere. Your stress level will decrease if what you do is fundamental to who you are.

Consider your impromptu actions when creating your fallback positions. Myron Cohen, a great comedian, started out as a frustrated worker in the apparel industry who was talented at sharing jokes with his friends. We all read about a successful financier who developed his innate musical abilities by rising to the rank of renowned conductor a few years ago. Every day, stories of wealthy businesspeople who “chuck it all” to pursue their deeper callings as artists, teachers, ministers, or developers of affordable housing are reported. Due to the fact that they are living out their true selves, these people will never want to retire.

Vice President: “I just can’t seem to get going.” He grimaced as he leaned back in his chair. “I can’t get interested in what I’m supposed to do. I know I should get rolling. I am aware that there is a ton of work to be done. They hired me for this position because of this, but I just can’t seem to get going. ”.

The vice president had moved from a subsidiary to company headquarters eighteen months prior to making these remarks. His new task was to organize the company’s control systems, which were disorganized as a result of a reorganization. But as soon as the vice president arrived at the corporate office, top management hired him to participate in its own personnel restructuring as a key staff member. He was the only employee who spoke with and sought advice from both line executives and the chief executive officer because he was not in direct competition with line executives. And because the top managers trusted him, they paid close attention to his recommendations.

But his task had been arduous. In addition to exhausting him, the long hours and constant pressure of balancing competing interests prevented him from addressing the control issues that required attention. Furthermore, he traveled 800 miles each way on the weekends to his family’s residence because his family was unable to move until his youngest child graduated from high school. He felt alone, harassed, and overworked as he attempted to carry out the task that had been thrust upon him and to support the CEO, who depended heavily on his abilities. He was not in a psychological state to assume his official responsibilities now that his staff responsibilities were coming to an end. In short, he had “burned out. ”.

Like generalized stress, burnout cuts across executive and managerial levels. Despite the fact that the phenomenon manifests itself in various ways and to varying degrees in various individuals, it nonetheless seems to have recognizable characteristics. For instance, although the person in the following example is different, many of the aspects of the issue are the same.

A large corporation’s vice president who wasn’t given the expected promotion left the organization to take the CEO position of a struggling small family-owned company. He jumped at the chance to save the small business, but when he got there, he found an insurmountable mountain of problems, including ongoing family disputes. He felt unable to leave but also unable to succeed. He spent months working days, nights, and weekends to try and free himself from a kind of psychological quicksand. His wife protested, to no avail. Finally, he was hospitalized for exhaustion.

“Ten years later, things had changed. I had to defend the electric company when we went to social gatherings and spoke to people. We were collaborating with a consortium that was constructing a nuclear power plant at the time. There was a tremendous amount of unfavorable commentary, and it never really subsided. People kept finding fault, refusing to understand how crucial that generating plant was to a steady flow of electricity.

“Nearly ten years later, we are still being attacked severely. I play the guy who catches everything in my current position. I find it difficult to get people to stop and listen, and I am unable to put up with the hostility that comes with it, including crank calls and being rudely awakened late at night. I’m not sure how long I can continue working here. ”.

“I have worked for this company for almost 15 years, switching jobs every two to three years.” Most of our managers are company men, like me. Although we have always been a high-tech company, we haven’t been as successful in marketing as some of our rivals. We have been undergoing continuous reorganization for the past ten years. Organizational structures change frequently, but the underlying management principles, practices, and administrative accoutrements remain the same. Consequences include ongoing annoyance, disruption, resentment, and undermining of “change.” You can’t just take a business that has been run from a certain perspective and make it different overnight.

“On top of that, a continual corporate pruning goes on. Since I’ve survived, I should take pride in that and trust what top management tells me, which is that the worthy persist while the unfit depart. Talent, initiative, and risk-taking, however, are no longer rewarded. Instead, the virtues that attract attention are conformity to corporate values and social abilities that erase individual differences. Also, the reward process is more political than meritocratic.

Researchers who examine cases like these concur that a unique phenomenon happens when individuals put forth a lot of effort, intense to the point of exhaustion, without obvious results. People are exhausted in these circumstances because they feel resentful, helpless, trapped, and depleted. This experience is stronger than typical stress in its intensity. People who are burned out are unable or unwilling to continue doing the things they have been doing.

Herbert J. Freudenberger, a psychologist from New York, developed this description of burnout after noticing a particular type of fatigue in mental health professionals. Freudenberger noted that burn-out is linked to psychological symptoms like a quick temper and a suspicious attitude toward others as well as physiological symptoms like frequent headaches and an inability to get rid of colds.

Although it is not clear from the examples above, a variety of behaviors, some of which are destructive, frequently go hand in hand with these feelings. Burned-out managers may inappropriately lash out at staff members and family members, or they may distance themselves even from those who can help them the most. They might completely separate their personal and professional lives. They might try to escape the stress by getting sick, taking time off work, abusing drugs or alcohol, or by temporarily finding solace in self-hypnosis techniques like biofeedback, meditation, or other forms of self-hypnosis. They might adopt more rigid stances or come off as distant and aloof.

At some point in their careers, the majority of people—including successful managers—likely experience a state of near-burnout. A 20-year study of a group of middle managers revealed that many of them were tolerating unhappy marriages, focusing only on their own jobs, and being less considerate of others as they approached their forties and had little hope of receiving further promotions. 3 Despite appearing friendly, they were often hostile to friendships. They were no longer flexible, had short fuse, and were estranged from their kids.

According to personality tests, these managers initially had a greater need for advancement (although it gradually decreased over time), than most of their peers, and they also had a greater need to do a job well for its own sake. Compared to other managers, they demonstrated a greater desire to rule and take charge than to submit to authority. They could still put in a good day’s work, but they were unable to invest themselves in the people around them or the business.

When people who have a strong drive to succeed don’t accomplish their objectives, they may turn hostile toward both themselves and other people. Additionally, they often direct their animosity toward tasks at work that are more clearly defined than before, which reduces their effort. They risk approaching burnout if they don’t get more involved in family matters during these times.

Researchers have noticed this kind of fatigue in a variety of professionals. The examples provided here show that it is common among executives and managers and that it is more likely to happen in competitive environments than in environments with a stable market. Managerial jobs involve a lot of contact with other people. This contact is frequently unpleasant, but it must be tolerated due to the requirements of the job.

One issue with people management is that the manager experiences constant stress as a result of this focus. The manager must deal with the least competent employees, as well as those who are generally unhappy, depressed, suspicious, competitive, and suspicious of others. The manager must strike a balance between these divergent personalities and harness their motivational potential. He or she must decide on the group’s goals, organize the members around them, define the group’s purpose, accept and deflect hostility from others, and deal with the frustration that results from ongoing interaction. The most challenging administrative task is managing people, which comes with its own set of frustrations. That frustration can—and does—cause many managers to burn out.

Additionally, many current managerial situations serve as the ideal environment for cases of burnout. Today’s managers face increasing time pressures with little respite. Although benefits like flexible working hours and longer vacations provide some relief, the typical workday for a modern executive is long and difficult. The support that most men used to receive at home is also decreasing as more women enter the workforce, and those who work receive as little support as, if not less support than, the men. Many managers value their time spent with their families highly. It is understandable if managers feel guilty about giving up this aspect of their lives to work’s demands and angry that they can’t do anything about it.

Modern organizations are extremely complex, which increases stress at work. Things take longer to complete as organizations grow larger and more complex. Managers who are trying to get ahead may become extremely frustrated as each person or office that a project goes through causes additional delays and problems that must be resolved before a task is completed.

There are more people for a manager to deal with as a result of the complexity of organizations increasing. As a result of participatory management, quality-of-work-life initiatives, and matrix structures, there are increasingly more people that managers must interact with directly. When constructing a plant, developing natural resources, or creating new products, a manager frequently has to engage in protracted and occasionally vehement interactions with neighborhood organizations. Executives working on contentious issues may become demonized for their actions.

Some managers feel lost as their companies expand, combine with others, or undergo reorganizations. They may find that the sacrifices they made for the organization have little lasting significance. A manager’s dedication and sense of support may change as the values of an organization change. The fear of obsolescence is another element of change that may exacerbate feelings of burnout. Managers who are already overworked and required to learn new skills for a new position or assignment may feel overburdened.

These days, change can also require managers to eliminate positions, downgrade employees, or even fire them. Managers who are forced to shut down a plant or endure difficult labor negotiations may become enraged at having to pay for the mistakes of their forefathers. Additionally, a fragmented market can put tremendous pressure on managers to develop fresh goods, inventive services, and creative financing and marketing plans.

How Managers Handle Employee Burnout

Why is managing employee burnout important as a manager?

Employee health and wellbeing are impacted by burnout, which may also have an impact on how well they perform at work. Managing employee burnout can help:

What is burnout?

Burnout is a term that refers specifically to ongoing workplace stress. It often occurs when employees feel overworked and underappreciated. However, when they feel understimulated by their current position, some employees develop burnout.

Some signs of burnout include:

Burnout affects employees of all levels. It can lead to emotional and physical effects. Since it can develop gradually, managers must assist staff in recognizing the symptoms so that problems can be resolved as soon as possible.

How to manage burnout

Employee burnout cannot be solved in a single way, and it requires individual attention. Changing the workplace at a higher level might help prevent or lessen employee burnout, but dealing with employee burnout still necessitates one-on-one assistance. The following actions can be taken to manage employee burnout:

1. Watch for the signs of burnout

Employees should be informed about burnout and encouraged to recognize the symptoms in themselves. Keep an eye out for the symptoms in both you and your team. Changes in productivity, work quality, and attitude are some indicators that may be simpler to spot.

2. Talk to the employee

Invite a worker who exhibits signs of burnout to speak with you in confidence if you notice them. As you inquire about their feelings, encourage them to be open and honest with you. Develop a plan of action with the employee that is suitable for them.

3. Reduce their workload

Employees who have too much work to do and not enough time to complete it frequently experience burnout. Reduce the number of assignments they have to complete and encourage them to seek assistance when necessary. Delegating them to those with extra time on their hands will prevent burnout for you rather than taking on the extra responsibilities; just make sure to check with them first.

4. Monitor their performance

Monitor the employees behavior and performance with their new workload. Allow a few weeks for changes to occur. Pay close attention to the caliber of their output and demeanor.

5. Follow up with them

Ask the worker how he or she feels about the reduced workload. Continue to assign them the same amount of work and follow up with them frequently to inquire about their progress if they report any positive changes. Talk to them about other options if they don’t feel the changes in their workload helped them enough. This might entail motivating them to take a day off to unwind or offering them resources to further explore their emotions.

Tips for managing burnout in yourself or employees

Here are some suggestions to prevent burnout in both you and your staff members:

Develop soft skills

Challenge yourself to develop or improve soft skills. Emotional intelligence is the foundation of many soft skills and can improve your ability to relate to people and comprehend their emotions. Make acquiring these skills a top priority to become the best manager and leader you can be.

Communicate effectively with employees

Improve communication by holding regular staff meetings and one-on-one check-in sessions. Clear communication can help clarify job duties, expectations, and assignment specifics. This can help avoid confusion and reduce stress.

Have open conversations about burnout

Employees must understand you care about their health and wellbeing. Maintain open communication about burnout. Assure staff that they are welcome to talk to you about their experience if they notice any signs of burnout. You can also talk about how you dealt with burnout in your own life.

Delegate tasks and manage workloads

By carefully assigning tasks to employees, you can reduce stress for both yourself and the people you are employing. Encourage staff to come to you directly if they feel their workload is too heavy. Try to give staff members tasks that are most compatible with their skills and preferences.

Promote collaboration among employees

Encourage employees to share assignments if they complain about having too many. Working with a teammate could help them feel less stressed. Additionally, this might promote camaraderie to raise spirits at work.

Emphasize successes more than failures

As a team, acknowledge accomplishments and talk about how you succeeded. Even though it’s important to talk about the bad stuff too, try to look for the good stuff in your work. Devote more time to celebrating success than dwelling on mistakes.

Acknowledge individual contributions

Congratulate employees on a job well done. Employees frequently experience burnout because they do not feel appreciated, but even a simple email of appreciation for their efforts demonstrates that you are aware of and appreciate what they do. When appropriate, acknowledge employees’ efforts in front of the company and share information about them with other upper management.

Create an employee reward program

Employee appreciation initiatives may increase workers’ engagement at work and make them feel valued. To find out more about the rewards that your employees would prefer, survey them. Rewards might take the form of additional paid time off, a complimentary meal, gift cards, or other promotional items.

Empower your employees

Encourage your staff to identify what drives them and relieves their stress at work. For instance, this might entail establishing a more casual dress code for the workplace, enabling employees to listen to music while they work, or encouraging them to personalize their desks. You can give your staff even more freedom by letting them design a schedule that suits their needs. Think about giving them a flexible schedule or letting them work from home a few days per week.

Find new ways to motivate your employees

You need to comprehend what drives each of your employees to perform their jobs well because they are all different. Identify what types of motivation each employee responds to. For instance, some staff members delight in hearing their efforts recognized publicly during company meetings. Other workers might prefer to get criticism in a private setting so they have something to work on and get better at.

Encourage employees to take time off

Encourage staff members to take a few days off so they can unwind and get away from work. This time allows staff members to concentrate on their personal passions and interests outside of their careers, whether they take a week off or one day off each month. They might feel revitalized and motivated to work once more as a result of this. Additionally, remind them to take regular breaks throughout the day, such as a 15-minute walk break or a 30-minute lunch break.

Improve employee benefits and compensation

Speak with human resources and upper management about the possibility of increasing employee benefits or pay. If workers believe they are paid more fairly, they might be more motivated to work. Think about raising their pay, providing them with more paid time off, or increasing the number of paid holidays the business offers each year.

Provide employees with helpful resources

Investigate wellness initiatives and services for your staff’s mental health, such as an employee assistance program (EAP). Remind staff members of the EAP benefit if your company offers it and encourage them to inquire with human resources about how it operates. Discuss the possibility of adding this benefit if your company doesn’t currently offer EAP.

Encourage employees to learn new skills

Some workers burn out because they become disinterested in their work. Think about scheduling weekly skill-learning sessions for each member of your team. Additionally, you can encourage a worker to try learning something new and collaborate with them to determine how they can do so.

Suppose, for instance, that you oversee the marketing division of a sizable corporation. On your team, a copywriter has expressed disengagement with their work and a desire to learn more about graphic design despite having some experience. You could schedule weekly training sessions with the copywriter and lead graphic designer. Following the training, the copywriter might be enthusiastic about their newly acquired abilities and assist with graphic design work as required.


What is management burnout?

The Idea in Brief. People may experience burnout when they have put in a lot of effort in a demanding situation without seeing any results. Compared to what is typically referred to as stress, it is much worse. People who are burned out feel trapped in psychological quicksand.

How do you address a burnout as a manager?

How to manage burnout
  1. Watch for the signs of burnout. Employees should be informed about burnout and encouraged to recognize the symptoms in themselves.
  2. Talk to the employee. …
  3. Reduce their workload. …
  4. Monitor their performance. …
  5. Follow up with them.

What managers can do about burnout?

12 Ways Managers Can Reduce Employee Stress and Burnout
  • Hold Walking Meetings. …
  • Promote Work/Life Balance. …
  • Monitor Workloads & Scheduling. …
  • Encourage Employees to Use Vacation Time. …
  • Provide Work From Home Options. …
  • Prioritize Workplace Wellness. …
  • Offer Employee Assistance Programs. …
  • Enforce Management Training.

Which profession has the highest burnout rate?

Teacher. Teaching “has the highest burnout rate of any public service job,” according to THE Journal, which is attributed, at least in part, to issues with working conditions and access to technology.

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