Epidemic of the Modern Workplace: Burnout I Lead Your Future Episode 6
You’re floating in the clouds, your childhood friend you haven’t seen in ten years flying next to you until a blaring siren strikes you from the sky like Icarus. You half open your eyes and face the grueling task of deciding whether or not to hit snooze. You may resist it and sun’s ruthless, unforgiving rays with every ounce of your being, but you must arise. The world is counting on you!
If you’ve ever lived through that saga, you’re probably familiar with workplace stress. It’s imposing, formidable older brother is something you may have also contended with: burnout.
You may have had a good laugh like I did at the dramatic story above, but burnout is no joke.
Symptoms include demotivation and detachment from work, ineffectiveness, feeling a lack of accomplishment, emptiness, self-doubt, self-isolation, a neglect of personal needs, and even a desire to drop out of society completely. It can even lead to depression, memory loss, sleep problems, alcohol abuse, weakened immune systems and poor job performance.
Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, unchecked buildup of stress across long periods of time and it has been called the epidemic of the modern workplace.
The line between stress and burnout can often be hard to draw, but they are two very different things. Dr. Cregg Dyke explains how it’s difficult to pinpoint where stress becomes burnout, but stress always comes first. Sometimes, burnout can be harsh enough that you won’t even recognize who you used to be beforehand.
This can all seem rather overwhelming, but you’re not helpless to stop it. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t think for one second that you’re alone.
There are three steps you can take to stand your ground.
1. Get Help!
Work with your employer to change your circumstances. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant says “burnout is not in your head, it’s in your circumstances.” That means you must take charge of your surrounding stress points. Your organization plays a large role in your circumstances, so it’s their duty to take part in the solution.
There are three ways you can work with your employer to change your circumstances.
The first is to reduce the demands of the job. There’s no shame in recognizing that you’ve been given more than you can handle. No one can carry the weight of the world.
The second is for the organization to give you more control to manage the load you carry.
Finally, an organization can provide plenty of resources for support and help in the form of counseling and other methods to help you cope.
2. Find Purpose!
We, as people, are meaning seekers. Without it, life can look pretty bleak; and whether we recognize it or not, we need meaning in our lives.
Author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Bob Bufford referred to “smoldering discontent” as something many workers contend with when they build their lives of success for decades, and then realize their lives have no deep significance to them.
Psychologist Adam Grant says the strongest buffer against burnout is a sense of daily progress. Take small steps forward every day. While they don’t have to be large, be sure to keep them consistent.
3. Track, track, track!
The best way to stay on track is by keeping track. Make a list of everything that makes you feel anxious, stressed, and worried. For each item, write at least one way to modify or mitigate the stress you face.
Find a routine that addresses behaviors that contribute to your stress and meet it with solutions at every change you get!
To learn more about how you can help yourself and others take arms against the ferocity of burnout, be sure to listen to the Lead Your Future Podcast Episode 6, called Epidemic of the Modern Workplace: Burnout.
In the second half of this episode, Patti Rausch, the Director of Career Programs at the Leadership Institute shares her own story with burnout. She took a leave of absence to work on a campaign where the weight of a family member’s death placed an immense weight on her shoulders, and she came face to face with the foreboding force of burnout.
The only way she was able to conquer it was by working with her supervisor, recognizing the burnout was only temporary, and facing it head on together.
In order to fight burnout, remember that you are not helpless! You can stop it!