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VOL. 45 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 15, 2021

Diffusing the urge to walk off job

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In retrospect, it was such a small thing. Any other day, that nearly-inconsequential little annoyance at work might not have bothered you. This time, it did, though, and that was it. You had no more cares to give, and you were done, immediate action was required.

In the new book “The Burnout Epidemic” by Jennifer Moss, you can learn how to avoid it next time.

Overworked and underpaid. It’s part of an old joke, but these days it’s not so funny. When your employees are stressed by extra work, less support and higher expectations with fewer tools, it affects them and your bottom line.

Worldwide, Moss says, almost $1 trillion in productivity is lost each year to job burnout, and 120,000 people die from the physical effects of it.

You know the signs. You know how you feel when you’re on the verge of burning out and you know that “self-care,” meditation and yoga have their limits. So, what can you do for yourself and your employees to stop job burnout in today’s weird work world?

To start, Moss lays out the six causes of burnout.

• Even when the most productive employees believe their workload is consistently too heavy, they begin to feel a sense of “hopelessness. To counter burnout then, sincerely acknowledge their efforts and empower them to step away from work as needed.

• Let employees “craft their roles” in the company, which helps to avoid “perceived lack of control.”

“The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and how We Can Fix It”

By Jennifer Moss

c.2021, Harvard Business Review

$30

271 pages

• Know that an inexpensive, cursory reward is worse than any “lack of reward or recognition.”

• Discourage poor relationships between co-workers, even when the workplace is virtual.

• Eliminate any “lack of fairness” and reward only people who genuinely deserve it.

• Be sure that there’s no “values mismatch” when hiring new employees.

Finally, learn how to measure burnout so you know when your business is in trouble. And don’t forget to take care of yourself because “we actually can’t do it all.”

These days, you find yourself quite often elbow-on-desk, forehead resting against your palm, wasting time thinking about how little time you have to waste. Look back at those six causes, though, and see if it’s time to read “The Burnout Epidemic.”

Indeed, the time might be ripe but there’s effort required. The author indulges in a bit of circle-talk, restating points in several different ways that could benefit, although reiteration isn’t innovation. Still, mindful supervisors will find new ways of perceiving old problems here, but don’t expect many placating words of wisdom to share with antsy owners or investors who just want results.

On that note, as for employees, this book might be validation for what ails you at work and (fair warning for management!) might be used as a road map for a better-fitting job.

“The Burnout Epidemic” also touches upon issues specifically borne by teachers, medical personnel and front-line workers, and it could be a useful anecdote for all those “Help Wanted” signs.

Anything to make things better, right? Because stress at work ain’t no small thing.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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