Burnout presents two distinct challenges for managers.
1. Addressing their own inclinations towards burnout, and
2. Helping their employees to avoid burnout.
A basic principle for helping others avoid burnout is that people do not always follow through. That is, providing people with good advice on managing their energy, involvement, and efficacy at work may not translate into action. The greater impact from managers comes from designing the work and the workplace in ways that make it easier for people to work in sustainable ways.
What To Do
• Take a Team Approach. Employees share many of the events and structures that contribute to burnout. The workload, organizational crises, and budget constraints are not individual experiences. Developing team-based approaches are a more efficient use of a managers’ time than attending to the challenges one person at a time.
• Pay Attention. A lot of evidence shows burnout is not a private experience. Colleagues and service recipients are pretty good at recognizing burnout when they encounter it. Paying attention to signs of chronic exhaustion, cynicism, or discouragement can be a constructive part of a leadership strategy.
• Identify Low Priority Activities. A culture that values innovation will encourage workgroups to take on new activities to remain current and vibrant in their fields. However, new resources often lag the introduction of new activities. An essential skill for managers is leading workgroup reflections to identify low priority activities to drop. A workgroup’s capacity cannot continually expand, so tough decisions are necessary.
• Keep Core Values Alive. Significant changes in organizational life often lead employees to question the organization’s commitment to core values. They may interpret change as relinquishing a previous commitment to service quality or other core values. Value crises are a major contributor to burnout. Leaders can have an impact by emphasizing how innovations assure continued commitment to those core values despite appearances to the contrary.