Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People

We tend to think of burnout as an individual problem, but the responsibility for managing it has shifted away from the individual and towards the organization. Leaders take note: It’s now on you to build a burnout strategy.

According to the foremost expert on burnout, Christina Maslach, we are attacking the problem from the wrong angle. “Categorizing burnout as a disease means ‘Hey we’ve got to treat that person.’ ‘You can’t work here because you’re the problem.’ ‘We have to get rid of that person.’ Then, it becomes that person’s problem, not the responsibility of the organization that employs them.”

A survey of 7,500 full-time employees by Gallup clearly demonstrates that the root causes of burnout do not really lie with the individual and that they can be averted - The top five reasons for burnout are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work

  2. Unmanageable workload

  3. Lack of role clarity

  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager

  5. Unreasonable time pressure

Leaders could save themselves a huge amount of employee stress and subsequent burnout, if they were just better at asking people what they need.

Burnout is preventable. It requires good organizational hygiene, better data, asking more timely and relevant questions, smarter (more micro) budgeting, and ensuring that wellness offerings are included as part of your well-being strategy. Keep the yoga, the resilience training, and the mindfulness classes — they are all terrific tools for optimizing mental health and managing stress. But, when it comes to employee burnout, remember — it’s on you leaders, not them.

To read the full HBR article, please click here.

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