Leadership is a constantly evolving skill set, which is why organizations must provide continuous support and space for their leaders. 

The term “workplace burnout” retrieves 16,500,000 results in 0.55 seconds on a Google search, with article after article describing the intricacies and details of why leaders experience workplace burnout and fatigue. Why is there so much written about this topic? 

It’s a significant issue in our modern workplace.

Especially in corporate America, where the stakes are high, board meetings are intense, and workplace demands are unwavering. According to a study by Deloitte, an astonishing 77% of respondents reported experiencing burnout at their current job, with over half of the participants stating they’ve experienced more than one occurrence over their tenure. 

It is no longer a question of if, but when, workplace burnout will occur. So what can we do about it? 

The Best Solution is Prevention

This saying may sound cliche, but it’s true. The best solution to avoiding burnout is to actively prevent it by educating leaders and employees about the progressive signs and symptoms of burnout. While the predicting factors of burnout can be extensive, there are hallmark red flags that we should all be looking for to address the problem immediately. 

According to research by Christina Maslach Ph.D., people who suffer from burnout experience the following foundational characteristics: 

  1. Overwhelming exhaustion 
  2. Feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job
  3. An overall sense of ineffectiveness accompanied by a lack of accomplishment

While no one ever plans to fall into the endless trap of burnout, the first step in any process towards changing a habit is recognition. Leaders who begin to travel down this road may not be socially aware of their actions, which is why coworkers, colleagues, and close friends need to take the initiative and have a discussion with the affected individual. These conversations are never easy, but they’re always worth it. 

The saying “it’s lonely at the top” can carry a heavy burden. Leaders in an organization can feel isolated from their peers and coworkers due to workplace demands and company initiatives. It’s especially true in the c-suite, where it may be difficult to share emotions and feelings because of the limited number of peers one can confide with at the office. People should not be living life on an island of their own, especially since 40% of our country already reports feeling lonely.  

Prevention might be the most effective way to delay or mitigate the onset of burnout, but what happens when someone is already experiencing burnout? 

The Solutions Lie In Changing Behavior and Expectations

If we want to reignite the flame of focus and motivation for an individual suffering from burnout, behaviors need to change. Leaders experiencing burnout may be more prone to feeling overwhelmed because of their lack of control of external sources such as their schedules, meetings, and demanding responsibilities. While some of these factors may not be subject to change, the one thing we can all control is our perceptions of the events taking place. 

Now, this is not an “if there’s a will, there’s a way” conversation because if burnout were due to a lack of willpower, most leaders would have already figured it out. Changing perceptions isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it. 

Burnout usually results because of a mismatch between workplace expectations and resources available to cope with those expectations, which is why companies need to be proactive with their hiring efforts for leadership positions. Properly assessing leaders’ skills and capabilities in the early stages can help prepare the company and leader with the skills needed to take their role to the next level without the expense of burnout. Companies must also equip their current leaders with the necessary support and educational opportunities to overcome their hurdles. 

High-level communication and sharing of frustrations can be one of the most efficient means to feel heard and reconnected to your organization. Employees report a 62% decrease in burnout rates when supported by a manager willing to listen to their struggles. 

Workplace culture may also be the culprit. Since one in four professionals report rarely or never using all of their vacation days, taking personal time needs to become a priority when a leader finds themselves in the middle of a burnout event. Vacations and time spent away from the office could be the best dose of medicine to rest and create new strategies for personally and professionally moving forward. 

While there may be many options on the table to alleviate burnout, individual preferences and personal factors will always play an important role in long term outcomes. Always choose what is best for you. 

Give The Power To The People

Actions will always speak louder than words, especially in leadership, which is why companies and leaders need to take this information to heart if they genuinely want to change their organizations. 

Providing greater autonomy, when possible, can be one of the most critical factors to delay or stop the onset of burnout, as employees are 43% less likely to experience burnout when they have a voice in choosing how and when to get tasks done. Changing the way you schedule your day could have significant consequences on your work outcomes. 

Leaders are resilient and will always find ways to overcome hurdles. Ensuring your leadership team is equipped with the right skills, people, and motives will be the best way to hedge your bet against workplace burnout.