If a good performer starts giving average results and shows a consistent decline in his performance, this should ring a bell
Burnout will not just affect employees in the short term, but companies in the longer run. Managers need to nip this in the bud
Workaholic and motivated employees are every manager’s dream. They work 24/7, keep fiddling with their smartphones and BlackBerrys for work-related updates and can rush to the office at the drop of a hat. Most often, such employees forsake their weekly offs and holidays to meet deadlines. Work becomes their top priority and they always strive for better results. Of course, this means that in the work-life balance, the latter often goes for a toss. While the former makes bosses happy, the latter is barely a concern as managers think of burnout as an individual problem. But, burnout is a manager issue because it directly affects a company’s culture and productivity. If managers do not learn to identify and deal with burnout, it may turn out to be a global epidemic.
Burnout is defined as the feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion due to stress from working under difficult or demanding conditions. Prolonged stress leads to tiredness, loss of interest and frustration with the job performance. A February 2013 research from recruitment specialist Robert Half UK shows about 30 per cent of human resources (HR) directors in the United Kingdom agreeing to the fact that employees in their organisations suffer burnout. These findings corroborate another research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) in 2012 wherein it was pointed out that more than a third of UK employees are at risk of burnout. CIPD is the world’s largest chartered HR and development professional body.
According to a 2011 survey in North America jointly done by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce on “Employee Recognition Programs”, employee engagement, employee retention and employee recruitment are challenges that organisations are going to face in the future.
Burnout is a serious issue and needs to be tackled head on as employees end up spending a lot of time at office. The first step is to acknowledge the existence of burnout and try to identify employees suffering from it. Here are a few warning signs:
This is the most common sign. If a good performer starts giving average results and shows a consistent decline in his performance, this should ring a bell. This shouldn’t be confused with a temporary slump in performance. Fortunately, this can easily be identified as this is quantifiable and managers tend to keep an eye on their team members’ performance and if they have been able to meet their targets.
Reduced interaction with colleagues:
Employees suffering from burnout often tend to withdraw from their colleagues. Even if they don’t turn entirely reclusive, their interaction with colleagues and seniors reduces and gradually they become less responsive to others. This is due to a result of lack of motivation and engagement. They express no interest in taking part in activities that they might have once considered rewarding.
Less interest in taking up new responsibilities:
This is a clear sign of disengagement and burnout. Employees start limiting their work and show no curiosity towards a new project. The moment a manager sees a useful resource running away from work opportunities he would have otherwise grabbed, he needs to be able to bring the employee back on track and help him cope with this.
Irregular office timings or rise in sick leaves:
Some physical symptoms of burnout are body ache, depression, joint pains etc. This might lead to employees falling sick. So a gradual rise in sick leave requests or a rise in lateness (sometimes accompanied by early exits), when accompanied by other symptoms, should be taken as a hint. In an article titled Employee Burnout: Around The Corner? Already Here? writer Gary M Stern quotes Ronald Downey, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, as saying, "Staff feels disconnected from the workplace, their job, colleagues, and ultimately themselves." The more they feel alienated, the more they want to stay away from their workplace.
Resentment and cynicism:
When an otherwise soft-spoken and cooperative team member starts expressing his disagreements in a not-so-pleasant manner, becomes cynical towards organisation’s policies or new projects and starts expressing it, these are enough clues for a wise manager. The Robert Calf research points out that there will be increasing instances of emotional outbursts from employees who are suffering from burnout.
There are talks around how companies can work towards stress management. However, a lot needs to be done on the execution front. Often companies do not talk about burnout because in the competitive scenario there is little they can do about workload. However, it is essential to acknowledge the existence of this problem. Employees facing burnout become less productive and thus affect companies in the longer run. Some companies take the help of consultants to help their employees through this. Managers have a huge role to play in this. People tend to disengage when they have no direct connection with their managers. One-on-one conversations with team members may help managers identify the problem well on time