Many managers and business owners fear that an honest conversation about burnout would open Pandora’s box of complaints and resignations. The opposite is true.
Discussing burnout doesn’t mean your company will transform into a support group, causing productivity to drop.
Providing employees with information about proper burnout prevention and making a genuine effort towards improving your company’s processes will work in your favor:
1. Respect for you as a manager will only grow when you’re not pretending that the workplace is ideal.
Often, companies try to put the responsibility for burnout solely on their employees. But studies have shown that an organization’s culture, workload, and other factors can cause it instead.
Being aware of the seriousness of the problem and having the courage to discuss it with your workers will show the maturity to talk about uncomfortable issues.
TIP: Beware of having those meetings out of obligation only (as it happens in many companies). If you believe it’s a personal problem or are unsure what causes it, you may need to look into literature or attend training before talking to the team.
2. It will help you rethink and improve workflows.
Owners and managers don’t have the possibility to notice their employees’ daily struggles with overcomplicated processes as they can’t be everywhere at the same time. But those nuisances are common causes of delays, dissatisfaction, or low morale among teams.
People directly responsible for performing tasks know which ones are redundant or inefficient. Inquiring about the sources of their annoyance at work will give you all the information you need.
Hearing them and considering valuable suggestions will eliminate unnecessary tasks and help your employees avoid burnout by freeing them from mundane and purposeless work.
TIP: Ask even if you already have a feedback submission process. People need to be approached directly because they often fear being perceived as complainers or troublemakers. Ensure the safety of expressing unfavorable opinions and that there’ll be no retaliation from process creators or managers.
3. Considering suggestions and resolving issues now will save you the trouble of recruiting replacement staff later.
Swiping burnout under the carpet ensures it’ll blow up in your face in the future.
Nowadays, employees have choices and aren’t forced to stay at a workplace they find unfulfilling or toxic. For many, it’s easier to change jobs than to persevere through uncomfortable working conditions or try to voice their opinion (as they can hardly expect a positive response from their employer).
TIP: To prevent it, make it easy to come to you with suggestions, and treat them as improvement points instead of complaints.
If you don’t implement a request, explain it to the person who proposed the revision. This step is usually forgotten by companies, making employees feel disrespected and discouraged.
4. Creating a safe atmosphere to communicate burnout status and its causes will result in fewer project delays.
Knowing the symptoms of burnout allows for earlier reaction and mitigation.
If your employees feel safe to communicate with you, it’ll allow making changes before productivity starts to drop:
- modifying inefficient tasks or unhelpful leadership habits (e.g., eliminating unnecessary bottlenecks, chaotic communication, too many unproductive meetings),
- training and coaching employees and managers who are unaware of their negative influence on the team,
- discussing steps requested by an employee approaching burnout (e.g., letting them work remotely or switching to a part-time position).
Early feedback will let you promptly implement the necessary adaptations or reach a compromise.
All before it becomes urgent and costly.
TIP: That will happen only by cultivating a culture of respect, and your attitude and reactions are crucial to its success. It doesn’t mean you have to accommodate all the recommendations, but you must be fair.
5. Open discussion may increase trust between HR and employees.
In many companies, this connection is strained as employees know the HR is working for the company’s good first. Therefore, to stay safe, they’re reluctant to interact and share information with HR unless it’s strictly necessary. It’s common to hide concerns, as when HR gets involved, things usually get serious. Hence, it discourages voicing issues, resulting in conflicts and resentments.
Trust won’t be won overnight, but it’s possible to gain it with proper actions.
You may want to start by preparing a communication plan and educating your managers and HR department on how to react to employee burnout appropriately. Design a guide on how to work with an employee depending on the reason, severity of burnout, and individual needs. Get training.
TIP: Ensure that burnout won’t cause termination and mean it; at the same time, check with your lawyers to confirm it won’t be used against you.
Don’t forget to include HR employees in the plan, as they must have a safe way to talk about their burnout too.
Remember: Do it with a genuine intention to improve the workplace, or else it will backfire.
Punishing employees for voicing inefficiencies or offering artificial advice that doesn’t address the real issue – all that would make your team lose motivation.
But doing it right may change your whole company for the better.