How to Recognize Burnout in Your Employees
Has a usually stellar employee suddenly become negative and unproductive? If so, then he or she might be dealing with burnout — an increasingly common problem among workers. So what exactly is burnout, and how can you help an employee that’s suffering from it?
What is burnout?
The Psychology Today article “The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout… Do You Have Them?" by Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. states that burnout occurs when an individual is in a state of chronic stress. It causes detachment and cynicism, as well as emotional and physical exhaustion. It can also make the employee feel ineffective and unable to accomplish anything. When left unaddressed, burnout can lead to serious physical and mental health problems.
Note that while high achievers are more prone to burnout, it can happen to anyone, so always be alert to signs among your entire team. Symptoms include a lack of focus, increased anxiety, depression, and less enjoyment in work — all of which lead to a loss of productivity and performance.
How to help employees who are suffering from burnout
Fortunately, you can help your employee get back on track again. Here are some action steps you can take.
- Start a dialogue. Arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss what’s going on. Reduce the employee’s stress by making it clear that he or she isn’t being reprimanded and instead, you’re trying to help. You could open with something like, “I’ve noticed that you seem quite stressed lately, and I’d like to have a conversation about how we can address that together.”
- Encourage a better work-life balance. Oftentimes, burnout is caused by a combination of too much work-related stress and too little rest and relaxation. Explain to your employee that rest is a must to perform well, and determine how he or she can achieve a better work-life balance. If necessary, recommend some time off and/or decrease the workload for a while. It’s also a good idea to discuss things like flexible hours and telecommuting, if those are options at your company.
- Identify what motivates your employee. As Dr. David G. Javitch advises in his Entrepreneur article “How to Prevent – and Rescue – Burnt-Out Employees,” you should determine motivators that will help the employee feel as if he or she accomplished something. That can be anything from completing a specific task to starting a new project to taking advantage of growth opportunities, so long as it will provide a sense of achievement.
- Provide support. Make sure your employee has the right tools and assistance to meet his or her objectives. Additionally, check in regularly to see how he or she is doing. This will make your employee feel supported — and that in turn can play an important role in his or her recovery.
Knowing how to help your employees recover from burnout is a critical skill for managers at all levels. Because when you know how to retain talent even during difficult times, you’ll contribute to keeping more skills, knowledge, and potential in-house. And in the long run, that will help not only your employees and your company, but also your own career.