Employee Burn Out – Diagnosis and Solutions
“Burn Out” may be a somewhat antiquated term, but it is alive and well, unfortunately, in today’s workforce. According to Jonathan Alpert, a NY psychotherapist and author, nearly everyone “is facing more pressure. With people laid off, people are taking on more responsibilities, working harder and having les support and that amounts to burnout. No one wants to complain for fear of losing their job”, so most employees stay and suffer in silence, all the while becoming less and less productive.
There are other possible factors that can cause burn out, too. Unrealistic deadlines can result in the hamster wheel effect – employees keep running at full tilt but are never able to reach the goal. Compounding this feeling of high stress, managers who never recognize or reward such hard work create an atmosphere of despair and eventually, apathy. Don’t let things get this far.
How to spot it:
- Missing deadlines
- Not living up to previous standards of work quality
- Doing less work and being less productive
- Increase in lateness or absenteeism
- Negative change in demeanor or attitude
How to remedy it:
- It starts with communication. Meet with effected employees one on one or even in a group setting to uncover root causes of burn out.
- Really listen to what they are telling you. There may be some messages you don’t want to hear. But to save your workforce and protect your team’s productivity, listen.
- Work out a plan together of how to reedy these issues. For example, if a worker feels completely overburdened, consider redistributing his workload. If someone feels that work is completely taking over her life, figure out ways to help her achieve better work- personal life balance.
- Write it all down. Document the individuals who are feeling burned out. Write down what the causes are, and describe in detail what solutions you have come up with together. Distribute these notes to all appropriate parties. Treat this as a living document and revisit it frequently to see if your solutions are working or if they need modification.
Prevention is key, too:
- Keep it fresh. Whether it is tasks or just the environment at large, variety is truly the spice of life that keeps us coming back for more. If there are routine tasks that need to be performed regularly, change who has to do them. Maybe it can be as simple as redecorating the breakroom, or changing the location of the weekly staff meetings. Anything you can do to periodically break the monotony of reoccurring tasks is positive.
- Cross train. The benefits of cross training employees are vast, but in this case the big benefit is that it keeps workers interested. Everyone enjoys learning new things, and they feel more valued as employees if they know you are investing in their training.
- Team building. This doesn’t have to be a huge company outing, but if you have it in your budget, why not?! If not, think small, like a company night out to the local ball park, or even breakfast at a favorite spot near the office. In nice weather, have a pot luck picnic and organize games for the families. Helping employees to enjoy each other’s company outside the workplace promotes teamwork and productivity in the workplace.
“Ultimately the biggest price companies’ pay for burnout is a loss of talented people. As the economy improves, they will leave the enterprise,” says John Izzo, author of Values-Shift: The New York Work Ethic and What It Means for Business.
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