Often, employees and managers fail to recognize burnout until the employee is on their way out the door. How can we learn to recognize burnout as it builds, and what can we do to help employees find meaning and motivation in their work again?
Burnout is the feeling of being overwhelmed at work and having no control over what’s causing the mild irritation or discontent. Left untreated, this mild irritation or discontent can grow into an issue that ultimately leads an employee to search for another job. Many people believe quite passionately that it’s better to suffer in silence than ask for help, especially when they think their issues are small, or petty. Like the proverbial frog who starts out in a pan of cold water and comes to a very slow boil, they may not recognize they’re boiling over with stress until it’s too late.
- Train your managers to listen for words and phrases about being overwhelmed, frustrated, powerless, unimportant, or overlooked.
- Pay attention to chronic complainers. They may not be burning out, but they can contribute to burnout in colleagues with their unrelenting negativity. Chronic complainers use sweeping, all-or-nothing complaints, and aren’t focused on distinct issues. I hate my job, management doesn’t care about us, we never get recognized, everyone else is at fault: These are vast complaints with no specifics. Not getting along with a manager, wanting greater opportunities, desiring a schedule change are all smaller, distinct issues that can be resolved to reduce burnout and retain the employee.
- Empower managers to help their team members resolve small issues so they don’t become bigger issues. Allowing associate swaps when manager mismatches or personality conflicts occur, offering some flexibility of scheduling, and offering annual opportunity reviews can relieve the very real issues in #2 before burnout sets in.
- Reward honesty. If an employee presents their challenges as specific, treatable issues to a manager in order to ask for help, thank them. The employee is trying to boost your retention rate, starting with themselves!
Tactics for Treating Burnout
Treating burnout early is key. Managers who listen, offer creative solutions, or simply empathize while taking the issue seriously, can reduce the stress that causes burnout.
- Positive corporate culture. Encourage growth, resilience, and motivation by providing a positive work environment. Reward hard work, honorable behavior, and a positive attitude.
- Reduce the negative. Negative Nancy and Downer Douglas are common roles, even at positive, supportive companies. Chronic complainers are actually damaging your corporate image internally, and positive action such as encouraging growth and offering opportunities may help. If going positive doesn’t work, corrective action may be needed to protect other employees from toxic attitudes.
- Encourage connection. Connected, engaged employees who like their managers and trust them to listen and care about issues are rarely burnt out. Connection is a burnout vaccine!
- Encourage solutions. Changing teams, trading workspace, or even bringing in family photos can brighten perspective and foster a feeling of empowerment. Involve employees in the problem-solving.
- Keep understaffing to a minimum. Doing more with less does promote efficiency, but there comes a point at which you are burning through good employees and causing an expensive retention deficit that may cost more than a few talented employees to keep the workload at a survivable level.
- Encourage vacation use. Instead of placing the most value on employees who never take a vacation, encourage the use of this valuable benefit. Your vacationing employees return refreshed and recharged and ready to work again!
- Survey employees regularly and ask what is going well at work, and what isn’t working. Your staff can spot burnout-inducing issues quickly and are a great resource in evaluating and triaging issues that can affect retention.
Want to learn more about improving retention? Contact Step Up Recruiting today, we’d love to help you hire, train, and retain your workforce!