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The Burnout Blues

July 25, 2022 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

Burnouts aren’t just for muscle cars. 

Chances are there is someone on your team that feels stuck in one spot, wheels turning, engine revving, just building up pressure until they blow up. Workplace burnout is real. It has damaging effects not only on your business but on your people. 

Several years ago, after managing our product support team for five years, I hit the wall. My batteries were drained and I was running on E. I no longer looked forward to having the opportunity to deescalate an upset customer. I couldn’t bring myself to be excited about our team meetings. My creativity was nowhere to be found. I was going through the motions, but I was on the edge of being checked out. I felt it, my team likely felt it, and I knew I had to do something before my customers felt it. 

It was a late night, after eight hours of standing in a trade show booth, meeting customers and promoting our business. My feet were aching but I felt better about my impact for the first time in months. Dinner, drinks and a fairly sketchy karaoke bar gave me the guts to say to my boss, “I need something more, something different.” He did not shoot me down or leave me to find my own home from many states away. Instead, he said, “We’ll figure it out.” When we returned to Milwaukee, that’s exactly what we did. I was able to do a different kind of work. I was motivated to make change and collaborate with different team members. My tank was full and I was ready to hit the road running. While that role didn’t pan out as expected, it put me on a path to be where I am today. Today I am grateful, satisfied and am in a position that allows me to make an impact. 

How as leaders can we limit the inevitable employee burnout? What can we do when we see a team member showing signs of disengagement, lack of motivation, and job related stress? How can modest tweaks to workflow create an environment of comfort and ease? 

  • Change it up: Years ago, we had a customer that regularly would switch employees to different roles. Sales to warranty. Phone based, to on the road. When I inquired, they told me it was to keep their people fresh, on their toes, and to avoid monotony. They were onto something. One of our teams has recently adopted a version of this and the employee feedback is positive.
  • Allow for decompression: Promote breaks and time off. Just being able to walk away from the triggers for a moment can be the breath of fresh air that’s needed to rejuvenate, reset, and return. Let team members vent and express themselves, as long as it is not done in a harmful or public manner. Sometimes you just have to let out a little steam to avoid bursting.
  • Evaluate workload, people, and processes: Maybe it is too much. Maybe what worked a year ago is now suffocating the team. Maybe Joe just isn’t cut out for the increase in sales calls. Take a step back and objectively see what is, and what isn’t working, and make changes as able. Find better ways to get the work done and make sure that the right people are in the right spots.

Workplace burnout may be unavoidable especially in the service industry. Be aware and be cognizant of the needs of your people. Address potential explosions before they occur. You don’t want your people “peeling out”.

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