Obstacles to tackling burnout
Before you can really deal with the issue of burnout, you need to be aware of some obstacles in your path. Fear of saying the wrong thing or being intrusive can lead you to hold back when you should help. You may also have unconscious biases that get in the way: the bystander effect (thinking someone else will help so you don’t need to act) and confirmation bias (having a belief that someone is fine and filtering out all the evidence that they’re not). Your own busy schedule at work may be a hindrance to really noticing how others are doing - or you may, in fact, be burning out yourself. And if you are burning out, you really can’t be of much help to others. The single best thing you can do to help your employees is to set a good example by avoiding burnout yourself.
Signs to watch for
We all need a challenge and stimulation at work, or we’d be bored and thus unhappy. But when stress consistently goes beyond the optimal point, performance rapidly drops off and burnout results. How do you spot the people who aren’t just under the usual stress, but burning out? Here are the signs to look out for:
- • Quality of work declines.
- • Takes longer to complete work (concentration poor; anxious need to check and recheck).
- • Struggles to complete work - colleagues complain they’re not pulling their weight.
- • Works unusually long hours (hard to focus, so needs to work extra hours to keep up).
- • Arrives late (sleep issues).
- • Self-neglect, like poor hygiene or looking disheveled.
- • Acts snappy or belligerent.
- • Is needy, dependent, clingy; wants constant support.
Keep in mind that personality plays a role in risk of burnout. The Type A personality is much more likely to experience burnout. Type A people are highly competitive, self-critical, impatient, aggressive and bullying.
When you realise that someone is suffering with burnout, the first step is to talk to the person in order to establish what’s going on with them and what support they need. Be prepared for the person’s defence mechanism kicking in, which may lead to denial or projection or even hostility. Persevere, focusing on the person’s behaviour at work, not their psychological state.