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VOL. 44 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 25, 2020

Burnout is not a badge of honor to be celebrated

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Burnout is not a badge. Yet, for some reason, we wear it every day as if it qualifies us for a prize. Grinding yourself down is not a contest. I wish we could all agree on this.

Productivity at work is the highest when we are rested and when we are taking care of ourselves. Unfortunately, in corporate America, we rarely recognize that.

There are days when we are trying to one-up each other on how little we’re taking care of ourselves. We like to talk about how we worked on the weekend or how we checked email late at night or early in the morning.

I hope – especially with the pandemic – we’re collectively having an opportunity to focus more on self-care. But honestly, self-care in 2020 is much more about survival than thriving. It’s hard to take care of yourself when everything is in such a state of disarray.

Unfortunately, burnout had become a way of life even before COVID. You can tell who is working the hardest based on who appears to be the most exhausted. These are sometimes the same people who are aging faster than others.

A Gallup survey found that the Top 5 reasons for burnout are:

• Unfair treatment at work

• Unmanageable workload

• Lack of role clarity

• Lack of support from the manager

• Unreasonable time pressure.

When we think of burnout, we think the burned-out employee must be at fault. But the Gallup survey suggests we should shift the focus to the employer.

What can you do if you’re a manager?

Harvard Business Review suggests that satisfaction and dissatisfaction aren’t on one continuum, and managers must consider both satisfaction and dissatisfaction at the same time. It makes sense when you explain it this way.

This would also suggest that burnout is linked to overall company culture. It’s up to managers to make a difference.

You also have a role to play as an individual contributor. Be transparent with your manager about timelines. Give feedback when things are unreasonable. Push back more. Ask for help.

It’s not uncommon for a manager to push until you speak up.

When possible, avoid sending emails on the weekends or at night. You might not think about it at the time, but this creates a negative cycle of internal pressure. Emailing a colleague on a Saturday makes them feel the need to quickly respond. And, then you will feel the need to write back.

Extra work is needed at times. But, if you push yourself to your limit all the time, you won’t be at your best. You won’t be as productive as you would otherwise be. Burnout is everyone’s problem.

Of course, this is easier said than done. But we have to start somewhere, together.

Reducing burnout increases productivity. It increases happiness. And, it will increase employee retention.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

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