Managing Burnout in your Team

Managing Burnout in your Team
May 12, 2015 Linda Murray

Athena Coaching, Linda MurrayAbsenteeism. Irritability. Poor work performance. Missed deadlines.

These are all signs of burnout, and you’ve probably experienced them yourself at some time in your working life.  If you’ve spotted these signs coming from one member of your team, it’s time to take some fast action.

Burnout is contagious. When one member of your team starts to lose concentration or displays a drop in performance standards, the workload shifts so that someone else can pick up the slack. Over time, the extra workload takes its toll, and the second team member starts to burn out. And so on it goes until your whole team is suffering.

What causes burnout?

There are many possibilities, but consider these:

  • Too much work
  • Too little work
  • Poor job design
  • Fear of losing a job
  • The worry of underperforming
  • Factors at home
  • Not being appreciated
  • Poor leadership
  • Lack of support at work

While you can’t fix all of these, those last few fall squarely at your feet as leader, so let’s start work there.

What can you do to stop burnout?

  1. Recognise effort as well as achievement. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort just to maintain the current position Find a reason to tell your team as a whole that they are doing a great job.
  2. Pay attention to what they say. It’s easy to listen without hearing, and if you’re in a rush, that’s often what happens. You can miss vital information and cues that you need to know about. Work on your communication skills and listen as well as you can talk.
  3. Do it differently. Work can become very routine. Lift the energy of your team by working outside the office, or by introducing some fun into the day. Break up your meetings with a Jaffa toss or by guessing the mystery star on each team member’s Fantale wrapper. Finish work early one day as a surprise. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it’s fun and it’s different.
  4. Encourage your team to talk together. The team members should be each other’s support mechanism but when the workload is heavy, conversation stops. Encourage the team to spend time together at tea break or lunch, just to ‘chill’ and get back in touch with each other.
  5. Model the behaviours you want to see in the team. Show your team what support and encouragement look like. Show them how to acknowledge and thank each other. Show them how to speak up when they need to and how to pay attention to each other. Human nature is such that we instinctively mimic the practices of people we admire or who hold positions we aspire to. Try it and see what happens.

Of course there are also procedural aspects of the workplace that you need to look at, such as ensuring the workload is spread evenly, staff are trained for the job and the team has the tools it needs to get the work done. However, if you can work on the human and interpersonal angles, you will find your team grows stronger and happier.

Can you do that?


Excellent. Now off you go and stock up on Jaffas and Fantales. They will come in handy.

Comments (2)

  1. JenDalitz 9 years ago

    This piece struck a chord. Burnout is on the increase. But what are leaders doing to treat the cause rather than the symptoms? There has to be streamlining of work processes and tasks, to actually take work OUT of the system not just coming up with fun ways to break the monotony of doing more, more, MORE. It takes courage to speak up and buck the trend and good business strategy to pull out the tasks that deliver little ROI. More leaders need to step up and take this challenge.

    • Linda Murray 9 years ago

      Absolutely agree Jen! As a society, we struggle with the concept that less is more. Taking breaks every 90 minutes to renew (therefore less time at your desk) actually increases productivity and engagement. We glorify “busy” so we have adopted work methods which really don’t serve us and ultimately lead to burnout. Multitasking would be one example. Less than 2% of people can effectively multitask. Therefore 98% of people are losing time in an effort to save time!
      The Energy Project, the work of Tony Schwarz, covers loads of great ways we can avoid burnout at the cause stage, not just manage the symptoms.
      As you say, business strategy needs to be a major consideration in this equation.

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