Signs of Burnout

Top Signs of Burnout in Your Company Culture

Burnout has been a hot topic across all industries in the last few years, but it’s more than just a corporate buzzword. According to Catalyst’s 2021 survey, 88% of workers experience burnout, and 60% report experiencing high levels of burnout. 

This widespread phenomenon can cause a loss of concentration, reduced effectiveness at work, and increased rates of employee turnover. Addressing burnout is one of the most valuable performance enhancement and employee retention strategies available to employers. But while some workplace consulting firms focus on fixing the root causes of burnout, few offer a proven way to help employees quickly overcome burnout challenges and get back to energized high performance fast. 

Our performance experts can show you how the breakthrough approach and framework of the Achieve System™ enables performance improvements even in the face of extreme burnout.

What is Burnout?

The term “burnout” was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, which he described as exhaustion, listlessness, and an inability to cope by people in high-stress occupations. The term has since evolved to apply to all industries, and it has gained mainstream recognition. 

In 2019, the World Health Organization entered it into its International Classification of Diseases, defining it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It categorizes symptoms into three dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism related to one’s job, and a sense of reduced work efficiency. 

Over the last several years, burnout has been a trending topic of concern for companies trying to maintain their workforce. Experts note that it is connected to plummeting productivity, poor retention, and other factors impacting a company’s bottom line. It’s important that leaders within a company accept burnout, recognize it, and try to remedy it to achieve high performance and a productive company culture transformation for their employees.

Common Signs of Burnout

Since burnout is a consequence of chronic stress, it shares many of the same indicators. It has both physical and mental symptoms that intermix and strengthen each other, making it a tricky condition to resolve. The symptoms tend to fall under three categories: exhaustion, workplace negativity, and a feeling of reduced performance. 

The physical symptoms of exhaustion, such as sleep issues, headaches, and reduced immune system function (leading to the employee falling sick more frequently) make mental exhaustion all the more challenging to shake. When tackling illness and sleep deprivation, employees have very little brain power left over to devote to their work. No matter how dedicated to their job they are, people just can’t achieve high performance while feeling their worst. 

This prolonged exhaustion can lead to cynicism and negativity in the workplace. Negativity doesn’t always refer to a poor attitude or open complaints — some employees try to work through this symptom quietly, without bringing it to management’s attention. However, it still leaves signs for employers who are willing to look for them. Employees experiencing burnout-related negativity will feel less identification with the job, the group, and the purpose of the work. They will stop planning for the future, growing their skillset, or aiming for a promotion. Employees dealing with burnout spend all of their energy just getting through the day, and they don’t have any to spare to prepare for the future. 

All of these symptoms combined tend to leave employees feeling less effective at work. Sometimes this is an accurate reflection — burnout can cause a lack of concentration, low motivation, and even absenteeism. However, this feeling can also be a result of their negativity and cynicism about the job and their own performance. Even if they are still accomplishing their tasks as effectively as before, they won’t necessarily feel like they are, resulting in a loss of confidence that could cause further issues down the road.

Stress Versus Burnout

While stress and burnout are interconnected, they are not the same thing and they respond to situations differently. Stress tends to result in heightened engagement: overworking and hyperfocus, with anxiety symptoms like restlessness and panic. The typical response to an overly stressed employee is to address the stressful situation by lightening their workload, extending their deadlines, or providing additional team members to help. 

On the other hand, burnout tends to result in decreased engagement: lack of motivation, loss of focus, and a sense of apathy or disinterest toward the work. The best approach is for employers to focus on creating a high-performance workplace where employees feel valued, productive, engaged, and resilient. 

Causes of Burnout in Your Company Culture

According to Gallup, five specific factors correlate most strongly with burnout. 

  • Unfair treatment at work: Employees feel that their relationship with management lacks trust and respect, and they feel like they’re missing the opportunity to advance.
  • Unmanageable workload: Whether the employee is struggling with too many tasks or too many hours, even high-performing employees can get burnout from their workloads.
  • Unclear communication from managers: Work is more difficult and frustrating without relevant information and the ability to ask for clarification.
  • Lack of manager support: Supportive managers foster honest communication and build natural motivation in their team members.
  • Unreasonable time pressure: Unreasonable deadlines can create a snowball effect of setbacks that keep employees behind schedule and under pressure for extended periods of time.

These causes all center around the actions, or lack of action, of people in leadership positions. Effective leaders and managers are the cornerstones of high-performing teams, and their influence can keep your team on the right track.

What You Can Do About It

Acknowledging burnout is the first step to addressing its emotional and physical symptoms of it. We call this owning your current reality — Point A. Check-in with your employees during high-stress periods. Provide support where you can, and encourage clear, honest communication. Make sure to stay connected to the experience you create for your employees — don’t get too caught up in achieving outcomes. 

Keep an eye on the employee population as a whole for signs of burnout. If it occurs in isolation, outside causes may have played a role. If you notice larger numbers of team members showing signs of burnout, the company culture or the systems you have in place could be causing the issue. Ask yourself, “What drives our organization? Are we driven by fire drills, or are we proactive in improving our processes?” Performance awareness is key, and if you notice the problems piling up, it may be time for a workplace culture transformation.

Beyond Workplace Consulting: How the Achieve System Can Help You Break Through Performance Barriers

The Achieve System uniquely helps businesses and organizations develop a company culture that enables their people and teams to build resilience, enhance engagement, and consistently achieve high performance. Our performance experts help leaders and teams connect to possibility and create the culture they want instead of fixing the culture they have.

When a VP at a Fortune 500 health insurance company noticed below-average employee engagement scores and possibly early signs of burnout in her team, she turned to the Achieve Institute for help. Within six months, employee engagement scores soared from 3.57 to 4.11, a leap so impressive that Gallup itself uses the results as a case study. Her team moved from the bottom to the top of employee engagement scores, and leadership implemented the Achieve System across multiple other divisions of the company. 

Our performance experts find that the majority of the time, organizations troubleshoot by trying to fix what they have. At the Achieve Institute, we challenge you to create what you need. Through interactive workshops, performance expert consultation sessions, group calls, employee retention strategies, and e-learning, the Achieve System triggers a company culture transformation that helps your team achieve high performance. Reach out to the team today to learn more.

Take the next step toward high performance.

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