Managers, Here Are 3 Warning Signs Your Employees Are Burnt Out
Creating a workplace free from burnout means prioritizing employee mental health and wellbeing.
Heidi Lynne Kurter
Workplace burnout has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. More than ever, workers are feeling isolated from their teams, suffering from work-life imbalance and struggling with their mental health as well as a lack of support. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized workplace burnout as a medical condition that could also be considered a mental health issue.
However, there still remains a stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. For this reason, employees are reluctant to confide in their manager about their own challenges with burnout and mental health. As a consequence, they carry the burden themselves causing their productivity, performance, happiness and mental health to rapidly deteriorate.
Some of the leading causes of burnout include:
- Unclear expectations
- Poor communication
- Being overworked and underappreciated
- Feeling the need to be constantly connected to work
- Working in a toxic environment
- Lack of support from a manager and/or coworkers
- Being micromanaged
Everyone has their own breaking point and handles stress differently. Burnout can happen at any time and at any stage of an employee’s career. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been with the company for 10 weeks, 6 months, or 2 years. According to WHO, when burnout is left untreated, it can lead to serious physical and psychological illnesses such as depression, heart disease and diabetes.
Here are three warning signs an employee is burnt out.
Decreased Productivity And Performance
Even the most talented and driven professionals are affected by workplace burnout. Once they feel a loss of purpose for the work they do, they lose the motivation to give their all to the task at hand. This leads to an increase in mistakes due to being careless about their work. Moreover, they feel that their accomplishments are insignificant. Even more so, if they’re being micromanaged or working for a toxic manager. No matter how hard they try, they feel their efforts aren’t good enough.
Despite what many managers believe, even the most passionate employees can fall victim to burnout. A Deloitte survey confirmed this when it revealed that 87% of employees reported that they’re passionate about their work but 64% said they’re frequently stressed.
The survey also discovered
- 91% of employees have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration that negatively impacts the quality of their work
- 84% of millennial workers have experienced burnout at their current job
- 83% reported that workplace burnout negatively impacts their personal relationships
- 70% feel their employers aren’t doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout
- Nearly 50% have left a job due to being burnt out
The worst thing a manager can do is turn a blind eye to employee burnout. It’s not until it’s too late that managers realize the severity of it. At this point, it’s nearly impossible to reverse it and managers would rather write off the employee than put in the effort to re-engage them. As such, burnt-out employees end up parting ways with the company.
Increased Cynicism Towards Coworkers And Clients
Workplace burnout is detrimental to all areas of a business costing the U.S. economy more than $300 billion dollars a year. More than that, it erodes employee morale, harms the client experience, destroys workplace cultures, and damages a company’s reputation, to name a few.
When employees are unhappy, it’s hard to ignore. Their negative emotions manifest through cynicism and irritability toward clients, coworkers and even their manager. Whether positive or negative, emotions are contagious and will impact the team which spreads throughout the company.
Here are a few signs an employee is unhappy
- They complain about the clients they work with
- More combative, aggressive and argumentative
- Openly speak negatively about the company
- No longer coachable or open to feedback
Detached From The Company
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a series of events that occur over time that result in employees becoming disengaged and mentally detached from the company. Even though a burnt-out employee shows up to meetings and events, they’re not presently there. This is evident in their lack of participation and contribution.
Rather than assume the worst, managers should take into account an employee’s workload. More often than not, an employee wants to participate in cultural initiatives, but their work prevents them from doing so. Thus, they feel isolated from the team and company as a whole.
However, when attending mandatory activities, they’re not able to enjoy themselves because they’re worried about the time they need to work to make up for having fun.
To add to this point, employees often fear taking PTO because the cost of taking time off isn’t worth the workload in which they have to come back. Oftentimes, CEOs or managers try to fix burnout by throwing perks at an employee with the expectation that it’ll re-engage them.
While receiving a fully paid vacation, gift cards or care packages are all nice gestures, they don’t get to the root of why an employee is burnt out. In fact, applying band-aid solutions does more harm than good because the employee eventually leaves due to their root issue never being addressed.
Re-engaging burnt-out employees isn’t a quick fix. It can take weeks, months or in most instances, it’s too late from the employee’s perspective. Regardless, managers need to own up to their role in creating workplace stress so they can prevent it from continuing.
To start, managers should meet with their employees consistently on a one-on-one basis to check in with where they’re at mentally as well as professionally. The key is to actively listen and be receptive rather than dismiss their complaints or negative feedback.
The worst thing a manager can do is become defensive or blame the employee when they open up about their stressors. Managers should prioritize finding a solution that will not only support the employee but also help relieve some of their workload. If they’re unable to do so, they need to be honest with the employee instead of giving them false hope or leaving them wondering.
Heidi Lynne Kurter
Heidi Lynne Kurter is a Workplace Culture Consultant and Leadership Coach helping agencies cultivate intentionally inclusive workplace cultures that turn employees into evangelists. In addition, she transforms managers into strong and impactful leaders. Heidi is also a Forbes Senior Contributor where she writes extensively about workplace culture and leadership strategy. She's an active member of her community as a domestic violence mentor, a volunteer leadership coach for Babson College students, a mentor for Ivy League students, and mental health and anti-workplace bullying advocate.