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The Blueprint: Employee Burnout

According to a 2018 Gallup study, roughly two-thirds of the American workforce experiences burnout at some point on the job. The study surfaced five reasons that people get burned out at work, and they aren’t all that surprising. Let’s look at what they are and how you can help as a manager.

1. Unfair treatment at work

Employees can perceive that they are being treated unfairly for a variety of reasons. It can range from missing out on a team lunch due to a sick day to sexual harassment. When it comes to minor incidents the perception of unfairness often depends on the employee’s mindset. Of course, when the law is being broken or employees are treated in morally reprehensible ways, most people can agree that what is happening is unfair. One big thing employers can do in the face of unfair treatment is create policies against those actions and make sure that abiding by those policies is part of the corporate culture. Managers also need to think about the feelings of their employees, and above all else be kind to employees--just like Mr. Rogers taught us.

2. Unmanageable workload

When projects and tasks are continually piled onto an individual they will eventually break. Even if they receive them willingly and with excitement, there’s only so much one person can accomplish in a finite amount of time. As a manager, you must constantly evaluate the workload of people you manage. The best way to do this is to make that evaluation part of your own weekly workflow. Look at what people are working on, and talk to them about their workload. Look for ways to remove barriers and provide support. Remember, even if your overachieving employee who really wants that promotion insists that they are fine, you must still continue taking a hard look at their workload and step in and make decisions to reduce it when it is time. That is the mark of a good manager.

3. Lack of role clarity

According to the Gallup study, many respondents reported that they were not entirely sure what was expected of them at work! This is a big problem and points to areas of major miscommunication, or lack thereof. This can happen in a busy company. People start out with a set of expectations but other things get thrown at them along the way, which muddies the waters. At some point, we seem to forget what the original job was. One thing managers can do is to make sure that when projects or tasks are assigned to an individual they fall within the scope of their role.

4. Lack of communication and support from a manager

Of all of the factors that cause employee burnout, this is probably the most egregious of them all, but sadly, it happens all the time. Being an effective communicator is probably one of the most important factors that makes a good manager--but so many aren’t. When you don’t communicate with employees and provide support--even unintentionally--they can begin to feel ignored and underappreciated. Even if someone is doing a great job they still need support. Everyone needs support and open lines of communication.

5. Unreasonable time pressure

If people constantly feel like they are faced with unreasonable deadlines and that they never get anything finished on time, they will crack under pressure--anybody would. That’s why managers must organize projects and tasks in a responsible way. Using good project management principles can help with setting reasonable deadlines that employees can feel confident about.


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