• Amii Barnard-Bahn

Bossing Back Burnout: Do These 3 Types Apply to Your Team?

Updated: Apr 11

I recently met with a group of executive clients, struck by the exhaustion we’re all feeling.


Spring is finally here, so what’s up?


The endless impact of Covid, the challenge of returning people to the office (or not) — and the war in Ukraine — have tapped out a lot of people.


So, what can we do about it?


I read a helpful article that categorized the sources of burnout into three distinct types:


- Exhaustion (decreased mental or physical reserves)

- Cynical detachment (decreased social connections)

- Reduced sense of efficacy (decreased self-confidence)


Research found that treatment for each of these is a little different. For exhaustion, self-care is the remedy. And small acts are the ticket — getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, cooking a favorite meal, getting a massage, keeping a gratitude journal, taking a nap, going on a bike ride — these all recharge personal energy reserves the next day.


With cynical detachment, the cure is connecting with others. Helping a team member with their challenges helps to reduce feelings of disconnectedness and isolation. Scheduling a catchup call or get-together with friends at least once a week.


And for those who may be feeling a reduced sense of efficacy — get your mojo back by completing an action that is in line with your personal values. For example, if you prize physical fitness, complete a challenging workout. If service is part of your leadership vision, an act of kindness for a team member may help you as much as it does them.


Two other things were clear from the study:


- The best cure for burnout is prevention. Pay attention to signs in yourself and your team that replenishment acts like those above are needed. Once you begin to feel them dipping, adopt a new habit related to the source of your burnout to maintain your reserves at a healthy level.

- While organizations need to protect employees from depletion and provide mental health resources, burnout recovery requires agency of the individual. In other words, the person experiencing symptoms of burnout is ultimately the only one who can truly pull themselves out of it.


What can leaders do to help? A few ideas from my clients:


“Free Friday” afternoons: Send a calendar invite to your team blocking three hours for focused work time. They can use it to get through their email, prep for the upcoming workweek, and tidy things up before the close of business. If the boss is blocking their time, others in the organization are unlikely to mess with this boundary.


Remove unnecessary work pressure: One of my clients noticed that a colleague on her team kept volunteering for extra assignments. His core work was beginning to suffer. My client took him aside to talk, and discovered that he was overworking out of fear. His relationship with his former boss had been poor, and he felt pressure to impress the new boss. My client reassured him that he was performing well, and helped him to begin saying no to non-essential work.


Reduce Zoom fatigue: Give your team a choice of phone (vs. videoconference) for your next 1:1. Studies have shown video can be draining, and classic phone calls are equal to or better for communicating — we can read vocal signals and emotionally connect better when we don’t have to also concentrate on “image management.”


The best cure for burnout is prevention. Watch for it.


Take care of yourself and others.


To your success!


Amii


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