Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout is a psychological syndrome that is conceptualized in terms of three core components: exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy in the workplace.
Understanding the distinction between the three components is essential since each one has a different antecedent and consequence and a potential causal relationship among the components.
- Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and don’t have enough energy. The exhaustion component represents the basic individual stress dimension of burnout.
- Cynicism: It refers to a negative, hostile, or excessively detached response to the job, which often includes a loss of idealism. It usually develops in response to the overload of emotional exhaustion. But the risk is that the detachment can turn into dehumanization. The cynicism component represents the interpersonal dimension of burnout.
- Inefficacy: It refers to a decline in feelings of competence and productivity at work. People experience a growing sense of inadequacy about their ability to do the job well, and this may result in a self-imposed verdict of failure. The inefficacy component represents the self-evaluation dimension of burnout.
Some researchers (Leiter and Maslach (1988)) addressed that high levels of emotional exhaustion would lead to high levels of cynicism, which, in turn, leads to diminished professional efficacy. On another note, burnout has long been regarded as having a negative impact on workplace well-being, productivity, and job performance. Although employees who are happy and engaged are more productive, employees who lack energy or other resources suffer decrements in performance and are less likely to engage in prosocial behaviors.
Therefore, many of us are experiencing burnout at work but we aren’t addressing it, simply because we don’t know how to or we feel that there is no need to say anything.
Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert stated why it is difficult to address it: “In the bottom of your belly is the feeling that if you can’t handle the work, there’s someone else who can; you feel dispensable. The natural tendency is to think, ‘I am not working hard enough, smart enough, or efficiently enough. I should be able to handle this.’ So you suffer in silence.”
But it is indeed very important to talk about it because it can have devastating consequences when left untreated. This is what will lead us to our first question:
How to talk to your manager about work burnout?
- Perform a self-diagnosis: Before talking to your managerit is very important to understand exactly why you are experiencing burnout.
- Ask your manager for a one-on-one meeting: This can happen virtually or in person.
- Create a meeting agenda: It is important to know what do you want to cover during the meeting so you can achieve your goal. This can be an example:
- Align on priorities and expectations
- Implement a new or different process
- Determine where you need more support and identify teammates or external resources, like a temp or contractor, that could help
- Develop or reorganize timelines
- Communicate roadblocks
- Be open with your manager: Be open about the fact that you’re feeling the effects of burnout. Communicate the symptoms you have noticed – both physical and mental – and highlight some things you identified as needs for overcoming your current state.
- Ask for guidance: ask about how to level up your time management skills, streamline tasks, and prioritize more effectively. If you and your manager decide to reassign any of your responsibilities, offer to help with the transition and provide regular guidance to whoever takes over.
- Create a goal plan: Your burnout won’t be fixed from the first time, thus it is necessary to create a plan to stop the burnout. Write it down so you can track your improvement.
- Follow through and follow up: This will take time, you need to be patient. If your plan does not work, schedule another meeting with your manager to recreate a better plan. It is also important to follow up with your manager even if things are working because your manager would like to hear when you are feeling better.
How to avoid burnout?
It Is important to not only focus on short-term solutions when experiencing burnout since the relief is only temporary. You need to focus on long-term strategies that will have a deeper impact on the issue and create a lasting change.
- Exercise: I am sure that everybody tells you the same thing. But exercising is crucial for your mental and physical health. Regular exercise can help alleviate stress, create a sense of well-being, and increase energy and productivity. Exercising will take your mind off work. The satisfaction of knowing you’re taking care of yourself, and the improved energy you’ll get from getting up and moving rather than sitting stationary at a desk all day, will help prevent that physical and emotional exhaustion that causes burnout.
- Sleep: Another common recommendation is to have a good night’s sleep. Insomnia is considered one of the symptoms of burnout. When you don’t sleep, your brain does not function at its prime. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
- Work with purpose: As an employee, working with a purpose is a way to bring meaning to the work you are doing and understand the contributions you are making to the company, as well as the society. When you discover your purpose, it would allow you to be fully engaged and motivated, and it can go a long way towards helping you avoid burnout.
- Perform job analysis: As this can be a new concept, job analysis is a technique for managing job overload. Perform a job analysisso you can clarify what’s expected of you, and what isn’t. This tool will help you identify what’s truly important in your role so that you can cut out or delegate tasks that aren’t as essential.
- Start saying “no”: As it seems very difficult to say no, especially to your manager, saying no in the right way, can protect you from burnout and overload. You need to learn and practice it, and when you say no, it is always good to give alternatives.
- Seek support: Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends, or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.
- Take control: Finding ways to create more autonomy in your role at work can help you avoid burnout. Be responsible and organized in your work, You will always feel more in control of your work when you manage your time effectively by creating a calendar, create a To-Do-List, and learn prioritization techniques.