The term “burnout” has garnered a lot of attention over the past few years, especially as society climbs out of a seemingly endless pandemic. But many leaders still struggle to recognize what burnout looks like. It can be even more challenging to implement proactive strategies to help prevent burnout from occurring in the first place. 

In this blog, I’ll review some best practices for how leaders can recognize and prevent employee burnout. Equally as important, I’ll cover ways leaders can avoid becoming burnt out themselves.


How Do I Recognize Burnout?

Many signs of employee burnout aren’t always easily distinguishable from other common issues, such as a lack of training, performance problems, or even substance abuse. However, the following behaviors are frequently associated with burnout:

  • A lack of energy to complete tasks
  • A lack of enthusiasm in their work
  • Increased irritability, cynicism, or a poor attitude towards work or coworkers
  • Aggressiveness or the inability to get along effectively with coworkers
  • Lacking a sense of pride or accomplishment in their work

This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but the presence of one or more of these issues can usually be tied to employee burnout. Recognizing it’s occurring is the first step to resolving the issue. After all, we can’t help our employees solve a problem if we don’t know a problem exists.


How Can Leaders Prevent Burnout?

In addition to having a negative impact on your employees' performance and health, burnout can lead to the loss of valuable team members. Here are some simple practices leaders can follow to prevent employees from experiencing burnout:

  • Be mindful of your employee’s work environment: When teams and coworkers operate together effectively in an environment conducive to cooperation, collaboration, and open communication— the likelihood of employee burnout is significantly reduced. Consider these dynamics when evaluating your team’s working environment.
  • Remember that work-life balance is more than just a buzzword: Suppose your employees are frequently coming in early or staying late, working extra hours or covering tasks outside their scope of responsibility. In that case, their work-life balance can quickly become compromised. Frequently check in with your employees, either formally or informally and ask about their lives outside of work.
  • Establish clear expectations and goals: Employees want to feel empowered and trusted to complete their work to the best of their abilities. With that in mind— set and communicate clear expectations and work together to create achievable yet challenging goals.
  • Review your employee benefits programs: Preventing burnout, or helping an employee navigate it when it occurs, is a good time to lean on your organization’s mental health resources. Familiarize yourself with your employee benefits programs and reinforce those that might help employees, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Having those programs readily available can make a tremendous difference to your employees.


How Do I Manage Burnout As A Leader?

As a leader, it’s crucial to monitor the well-being of your employees and keep burnout at bay. But what happens when you experience it? First off, you’re not alone. Leaders bear a heavy burden of driving their teams forward while juggling shifting priorities and objectives. If you notice you’re becoming burned out, here are ways you can act:

  • Ask for help: It’s okay to seek support or assistance from others, especially those in your peer group. Just as we encourage our employees to come to us with problems or concerns, we must be willing to do the same as leaders. If you feel overwhelmed, speak up and let others help you. You may be surprised to see the difference someone else’s perspective can make.
  • Spend time on yourself: If you feel like work is consuming your life and you aren’t as enthusiastic about your job as you used to be, it might be time to slow down. Taking time away from work to truly disconnect and recenter yourself has tremendous value in avoiding exhaustion.
  • Reevaluate your role and responsibilities: Are you doing something you genuinely enjoy? If not, what would you change so you do enjoy it? You should also consider if your responsibilities are clearly defined or if something ambiguous or confusing in your role is causing additional stress. After asking yourself these questions and coming up with ideas on ways you can feel more excited about your work, meet with your supervisor to discuss your options.

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It's not always easy to identify burnout within our employees and ourselves. But preventing burnout early on will help retain your employees and show your team you care about their well-being. Organizations should strive to reach a place where employees are not just earning a paycheck but are engaged, motivated and energized to come to work every day. Using the steps above can help you achieve that goal.


About the Author

Ken Moses

Ken Moses

Chief People Officer

[email protected]

As the Chief People Officer at Cascade, Ken is responsible for building successful HR capabilities that align with business strategies. He’s a results-driven, hands-on HR business leader with more than 25 years of experience. Ken obtained a Bachelor of Art degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a Master of Science degree in Organizational Psychology from California State University at Long Beach.


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