Over 80% Of Leaders Admit They Don’t Know How To Reduce Employee Burnout
By: Mark Murphy, Senior Contributor, Founder of Leadership IQ
Date: Aug 26, 2021
When your employees are burned out, they’re more likely to quit, make mistakes, and suffer declines in productivity. And if you’ve ever wondered why reducing employee burnout is important to your bottom-line business results, that previous sentence gives you the answer.
As disturbing as that previous sentence is, this next one should cause you even more concern. As discovered in the new study from Leadership IQ, called Employee Burnout In 2021, only 19% of leaders rate their skills in reducing employee burnout as advanced or expert. In other words, 81% of leaders readily admit that they don’t really know how to successfully reduce employee burnout.
Historically, the task of reducing employee burnout has fallen to human resources or training departments. Executives and managers generally hope that, magically, the HR team will be able to craft some work-from-home solution that instantly alleviates the burnout problem but, of course, that’s not how job burnout works. Yes, in the midst of a pandemic, employees do want more time working remotely. The aforementioned burnout study, for example, discovered that people generally want to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. But a better schedule for working from home is a minor issue in the grand scheme of reducing work burnout.
To really make a dent in reducing burnout, managers will need to incorporate better mental health practices into their leadership skillset. And that’s where the average manager has no idea where to start.
Of course, you can buy a corporate license to a meditation app for all employees. But do you seriously think that’s going to make a dent in the rampant burnout afflicting most employees? Most people can’t stick with their New Year’s resolutions beyond 90 days; do we really expect that people will adopt a mindfulness practice and perform it diligently for the next year?
To significantly reduce work burnout, managers will need to incorporate emotional wellness practices into their daily management. And that means that human resource departments will need to train those managers on a new set of skills.
For instance, imagine that you’ve got an employee who responds to every new initiative with phrases like, “I’m too exhausted to even think about that,” “I’m so fried, how can I even think about something new,” or, “I’m so overwhelmed right now that there’s no way I can tackle another project.”
How should a manager respond? Should they say something like, “well you’ve just gotta suck it up,” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or “griping about it isn’t going to help”? Phrases like that are virtually guaranteed to worsen your current burnout problems.
By contrast, if a manager were trained in the concept of internal locus of control, they might respond, “I hear that you’re feeling overwhelmed. So rather than talking about all the myriad issues we can’t control, let’s take one piece we do have some control over. And now, let’s go step by step through ways that you and I can influence that one piece.”
That type of cognitive restructuring and reframing is a learnable (and incredibly effective) skill, but it takes some training. And what the burnout study referenced above makes clear is that the overwhelming majority of leaders have not received that type of training.
Reducing burnout should, of course, be part of any leadership development curriculum. In today’s incredibly high-stress and pandemic-riddled world, skills for reducing job burnout should be at the top of any management skills training program. Again, these are learnable skills. But as the research shows, most managers just haven’t gotten the training to handle this issue effectively.