Business mentoring professionals have identified that managing burnout is a serious strategic threat facing business leaders today.
Burnout leads to reduced productivity, effectiveness and profits, as well as increased risk of losing your most valuable people. Therefore, business leaders must put into place strategies to prevent or recover their teams, individuals and themselves from burnout.
The psychologist Christina Maslach and several collaborators have identified that burnout has three components caused by reactions to chronic stressors on the job. These are exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy.
Exhaustion is profound physical, cognitive and emotional fatigue that undermines people’s ability to work effectively and feel positive about what they are doing. Is burnout being caused by constant demands of a 24/7 culture, intense time pressure, dislike for the job, or lack of control over the work or a deficit in skills to accomplish it?
In an exhausted state, people can become unable to concentrate and see the big picture. Routine tasks may seem arduous, and it might be difficult for them to drag themselves into or out of the office.
Cynicism is an erosion of engagement, where people distance themselves psychologically from their work. Rather than feeling invested in the job, assignments, projects, colleagues or customers, they become increasingly detached, negative and insensitive.
This can be due to work overload, or even lack of participation in decision making circumstances. Persistent cynicism is a signal that they have lost connection to, enjoyment of and pride in their work.
Inefficacy refers to feelings of incompetence and a lack of achievement and productivity. They feel their skills and confidence slipping and worry that they cannot succeed or accomplish certain tasks. Inefficacy often develops out of exhaustion and cynicism when they’re out of energy and have lost their connection to work.
Burnout can also start with inefficacy if they lack the resources and support to do their job well, including adequate time, information, clear expectations, autonomy and good relationships with those whose involvement is needed to succeed.
The absence of proper feedback and meaningful recognition may leave these people wondering about the quality of their work and feeling unappreciated.
Fixing Burnout Approaches
Changes may be needed at the job, team and organisational level, and the first step is to diagnose your specific burnout profile for individuals, groups and yourself so that you know where you need the most help i.e., Exhaustion v Cynicism v Inefficacy, or a combination.
Recovery and Prevention of Burnout
Here are some strategies business mentoring and coaching professionals have found to be successful. Situational factors may be the biggest contributors to burnout, so changes at the job, team or organisational level are often required to address all the underlying issues.
Ensure that you review the strategy and get your team involved. Once that is clear and staff input has been listened to, you can find a clear strategic path that helps to lift the morale in the business and focus on outcomes and results.
Prioritise Individual Self-Care
Replenish your physical and emotional energy and improve your capacity to focus by adopting good sleep habits, nutrition, exercise, social connection and activities that promote wellbeing. These may include reading, thinking, journaling and enjoying exercise outdoors. This self-care needs to be timetabled and evaluated by individuals to improve behaviour, with the aim of becoming more intentional about how time is spent.
- Limit exposure to tasks, people and situations that are non-essential or put you in a negative mood.
- Increase activities that boost your energy, and make space for restful, positive time away from work.
- Review compliance and improve compliance, and if you still feel burnt out, change behaviour to compensate.
A business mentor or coach might ask you to lift your own and staff perspectives by:
- Getting into positive mindsets and challenging what can be improved.
- Prioritising all tasks and focusing on the top ranked items, then reviewing and reprioritising to keep the focus.
- Asking whether jobs can be reshaped to gain more control and focus on the highest priorities.
- Shielding individuals from interactions that most frustrate them (limited by what is important to the business), while re-engaging in their specific role and the whole organisation.
- Building more positive, supportive relationships to better support your people.
- Asking staff what required assistance or development they need to do their jobs better.
- Determining if there are adequate opportunities for staff to show-case their work so that they get recognition and positive feedback.
Reduce Exposure to Job Stressors
A business mentor or coach may ask you to reduce exposure to job stressors.
To reduce stress, you and your staff will need to reset the expectations of colleagues, clients and even family members for what and how much they are willing to take on, as well as establishing ground rules for working together. All while letting them know that these changes are critical to improve the long-term productivity of the business.
For example, with clients or family who often come forward with “crises”, they may simply need educating on how to plan for these events. It’s possible to then deal with these in a more efficient non-crisis mode approach.
The other simple aspect to reduce pressure is the ability to say “no” to workplace demands where appropriate.
Seek Out Connections
A business mentor or coach might ask you to seek out new connections.
One of the best antidotes to burnout, particularly when driven by cynicism and inefficacy, is to seek out rich interpersonal interactions and continual personal and professional development:
- Find a business mentor or coach who can help you identify and activate positive relationships and development opportunities.
- Given the influence of business situational factors on burnout, it is likely that others are suffering too. If you band together to offer mutual support, identify problems, and brainstorm and advocate for solutions, you can all increase your sense of control and connection.
When business mentoring and coaching professionals find clients that have burnout, understanding its symptoms and causes and implementing approaches for improvement is key. Only then can you and your people recover and refocus on delivering on strategy and business performance.