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Exhaustion and Burn Out In the Workplace

There are many things up in the air right now thanks to COVID-19, but one thing is absolutely clear.

Burn out is real.

Burn out is no respecter of persons - everyone is susceptible from the front line to the CEO.

It is important to recognize personal burn out and there are many online tools to discover where you are on the spectrum. Here’s an example of a quick 15-question tool: (I do not receive any kick backs or sponsorship for this recommendation, I just found it helpful.)

Authentic leaders are not only self-aware of their own burn out propensities, they are also cognizant of their people and their burn out levels.

For some organizations, COVID-19 has caused a reduction in workforce without reducing the amount of work.

For others, there may not be a reduction in workforce, but operations have changed to accomplish the same outcome with different or less tools.

For others, workforce and tools may not have changed, but the difficulties of working in an office where people have differing views on how masks and other sanitary preventions should (or should not) be incorporated into the office creates fear and infighting.

Sometimes it’s all of the above.

Regardless of the situation, there is no question that COVID-19 has launched us all into an environment with a lot more stressors.

That means your people are experiencing more stress and could be in the throes of burn out, too.

At a minimum, burn out means lowered productivity and an unhappy work environment. At a maximum, burn out leads to turn over.

It is imperative that authentic leaders look for burn out in their people. Here are three tell-tale signs:

  • Visible unhappiness: When humans reach the point of burn out it becomes harder to hide negative emotions. Don’t take this lightly. Follow up right away with an open one-on-one conversation. Maybe even make it a walking meeting so there isn’t a desk in the way of honest thoughts.

  • Others notice: When someone is unhappy, those closest to them will notice, and if they trust you will bring it to your attention. Don’t waste this heads up. Reach out to the person privately and ask how they are doing and state you value their opinion.

  • Sullen silence: One of the big signs things have really gone off the deep end is when employees who previously shared their thoughts no longer do. These are often easy to tell because you get a knot in your stomach when you ask them for their opinion and they just shake their head or say they have nothing to add. This absolutely must be addressed and likely in an out-of-the-office setting (maybe have lunch together) where there aren’t ears around and anonymity is more of an option.

We can do this. You can do this. I’m cheering for you.

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