Prescription for Leaders – fireproofing your company: 6 steps to prevent burnout at work

This post is authored by guest expert / columnist, Travis Dommert. Travis is the President of IRUNURUN a performance and accountability system designed to help individuals and organizations achieve their potential and in his words, he’s an “expert in quitting”, or more accurately, understanding why people quit and helping them avoid it.  Welcome Travis!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that Americans are now working about 160 hours a year more than we did just a few decades ago. Together with an accelerated pace of work, near-constant interruptions thanks to technology developments, and the toughest economic environment and most uncertain geo-political landscape of the last fifty years or more, it is no wonder burnout is on the rise.

With its devastating impact on employee engagement, employee retention, and organizational performance, burnout deserves some proactive attention. Here are six tips to fireproof your workplace from the effects of burnout.

1. Develop a BHOW. Many people have heard of the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) made popular by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. Goals are great, but more important yet is a Big Hairy Outrageous Why. In the face of long hours and delayed gratification, few things sustain us as well as a compelling reason for our work. Is your mission alive in your company? Have you talked about it in the last 7 days? Can every person in your organization articulate it? Lead with a big why.

2. Encourage “Be” Goals. Continuing on the theme of purpose, take the “why” concept to your individuals’ and organizational goals. In addition to articulating what you want to “do”, encourage your people and teams to define (in writing) who or what they want to be. On an individual basis, have employees write their eulogy and really think hard about what they want to accomplish as leaders, subject matter experts, parents, spouses, and community members. Helping people achieve their personal goals will draw them closer to your company, add intrinsic rewards to challenging financial times, and energize them to perform their best at work.

3. Master the Fundamentals. Identify the essentials required to perform any function and make sure people understand the fundamentals. Then get them performing the fundamentals consistently. Over time, encourage people to master these fundamentals and recognize such mastery to encourage others to gain confidence and achieve high performance in specific work areas. Keeping people active and achieving, even with small wins, can head off burnout.

4. Embrace Oscillation. Coined and discussed at length by performance psychology experts, Dr. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, oscillation reflects the world’s natural rhythm. Just as day goes to night, people are meant to oscillate between periods of stress and recovery. Too much stress or too much rest erodes performance. To achieve their potential, people need to push themselves hard, flex their mental, physical, and emotional “muscles”, then rest. The rest can be purely a matter of perspective (e.g. thinking of the traffic jam as an opportunity to enjoy an extra chapter of your audio book) or it can be more tangible, like exercising to relieve stress.

5. Level the Playing Field. Are people in your company held to a singular bar of excellence, such as assets under management or new sales per quarter, or are they recognized for performing with excellence based on their role and experience? A single measuring stick seems logical, but people are different, and their ability to contribute may vary based on their experience and function. Just as you wouldn’t throw fast balls to your new t-ball player, you shouldn’t compare new sales people to your rainmakers if you want to encourage and keep them. Instead, establish objectives for people relative to where they are in the company and where they are on their journey, and push people to achieve their potential.

6. Taper. Have you ever run an endurance race such as a marathon? If so, then you have probably used the taper to recover your mental and physical strength at some point in your training. Periodically tapering involves backing off the stress level for a week or two, catching your breath so to speak, and preparing for another hard drive. Distance athletes do this religiously, but organizations rarely back off. To the contrary, backing off is seen as wasteful and weak. Companies push their people every day, all year long. The result is exhaustion. One week a quarter, plan some training, celebrations, or offsite activities. Mix up the work and watch as people push harder in the weeks that follow. New ideas flow. Sparks fly, and performance improves.

If your goal is to grow and prosper, you must be intentional about staving off burnout in your work environment. Establish meaningful purpose behind their work, set your employees up to win, help them be more productive and effective, and be sure they are experiencing results, rewards, recognition, and relief in their work.

What have you done to avoid burnout in your workplace?

 

About the author. As president of IRUNURUN, Travis Dommert works with leaders and their organizations to help them achieve their potential through focus, consistency, and accountability. Travis is a graduate of Northwestern University and the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. To learn more, visit the IRUNURUN blog here.

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