What to Do When Facing Employee Burnout

In a 2016 survey, 64% of North American employees experienced high levels of stress with extreme fatigue, which can lead to burnout and turnover. Don’t let this happen to your team: apply these recommendations from organizational psychologist Dr. David G. Javitch.

  1. Recognize the signs. Some of the signs of burnout include a decline in performance, missed days at work, tardiness, increased errors, or a change in lunch or coffee breaks.

  2. Meet with the employee. Begin the meeting by asking them about their perception of their recent productivity and attitude. Then, based on your observation of their recent behavior, share your thoughts.

  3. Identify previous motivators. Work with the employee to identify what motivated them in the past and which of the factors no longer work as motivators. Understanding why they no longer feel motivated and excited about work can provide insight about how to move forward.

  4. Identify new motivators.

    1. Identify areas where the employee feels achievement. Talk about where the employee feels a sense of achievement in their work. Is it from finishing a task? From working with others or creating new ideas? Once you identify where the employee feels achievement, tweak job responsibilities and assignments to meet their needs.

    2. Provide opportunities for personal and professional growth. This can be done by encouraging attendance at seminars or learning new skills at workshops. Supporting professional and personal growth can motivate the employee to continue to move forward towards a goal.

    3. Try expanding job responsibilities. If the employee communicates that they are burnt out from not feeling challenged at work, try expanding the breadth and depth of their responsibilities for new areas of learning and growth. Doing so can re-energize the employee and discourage them from getting bored at work.

  5. Adjust expectations. Make sure the employee knows what is expected of them and how they can succeed in meeting that expectation by providing enough guidance and support. Communicate clearly to find out if they have a full understanding of the current work, if it is too challenging, or if it is not challenging enough.

  6. Make sure that you are dealing with your own burnout. If you find yourself burning out in your managerial role, this can have an impact on your employee motivation and productivity, as well.

    1. Schedule and take breaks. As a manager, it can feel like you have to always be there for your employees. Schedule breaks in your day by communicating with your employees that you will not be available for that time period but you are there for them otherwise. Then, treat yourself to a lunch away from your office or a walk around the building.

    2. Pinpoint causes of frustration and make adjustments. There may be relationship habits between you and your employees that unnecessarily frustrates you. For example, it may distract you from your own work when your employees come into your office throughout the day to ask questions without scheduling meetings. Pinpoint one or two issues and communicate them to your team to build a healthier relationship.

Takeaway: Employee burnout can lead to underperformance. If you spot signs of burnout in your employees, try identifying new ways to re-energize and motivate the employee—especially if that employee is you!

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