In my line of work, which is supporting leaders and teams through major restructures and transformation, burn-out is a common challenge. Individuals at all levels can become depleted and deeply change-weary when so much is being asked of them during reforms, structural changes or mergers.
It’s a huge challenge for leaders and employees to sustain themselves, their relationships and their work when this happens. In the transformation coaching work I do, it’s important to focus on each individual and consider what they need to develop resilience, look after themselves and maintain equilibrium through major transitions.
As an individual, there are self-care practices you can adopt to prevent and manage burn out. As a leader, you can do the same – and you may also be challenged to manage your team through major change and look out for those around you while trying to practise your own self-care.
There are some tell-tale signs leaders can look out for when their teams are approaching burnt-out or are already there. I encourage leaders to look out for these signs and address the issue head-on. Everyone has different levels of tolerance and different responses to stress. Taking time to really connect, engage and address what’s happening with individuals in your organisation is key to supporting ongoing cultural transformation and managing your team effectively.
Know the signs of burn-out
- Constant exhaustion. We’re talking deep depletion that doesn’t go away over the weekend. Constantly feeling shattered is a clear sign of burn-out.
- No motivation, no energy. When finding it hard to get up for work is a common occurrence and even getting through the day is a struggle, it’s highly likely you’re run-down.
- The joy is gone. If you get no satisfaction from work you were once passionate about or you sense your team are unhappy, you know a re-boot is required.
- When cynicism reigns. If people are feeling jaded, frustrated or disenfranchised more often than not, it’s a sure sign you need to re-balance and re-charge.
- Difficulty focusing or impaired cognitive function. When you or your team are struggling to focus a lot of the time, losing your train of thought regularly or finding it difficult to finish tasks, burn-out may be to blame.
- High stress levels, anxiety or depression. Signs of chronic stress and high anxiety are common symptoms of burn-out and these can often manifest in depression. Other factors could be at play, but burn-out could be the trigger.
How to remedy burn-out or stop it in its tracks
- Invest in your employees’ well-being through a coaching program. If your employees are burnt-out, they can benefit from a holistic approach to re-charge their batteries. There is immense value in a wellness program which helps the individual to fully reset in all areas so they can get back on track emotionally and mentally.
- Engage with each individual. Take time to engage with your team members in a meaningful way – facilitate honest conversations and find how how they are feeling. You can then start to identify what they need and how you can better support them.
- Provide honest, constructive and engaged feedback. This is so often lacking in organisations. People need to feel connected to each other, their co-workers, teams and leaders. Finding ways to give meaningful feedback on a regular basis can go a long way to help your your team feel connected, valued and focused.
- Provide positive reinforcement and support. People need positive reinforcement and support to increase their productivity. Receiving recognition strengthens connection and helps people feel more enthusiastic about themselves and their work. When you take the time to recognise and reward your team for their good work, you support them in their sense of self-worth and improve their learning.
- Respect each person and treat them individually. Everyone deals with stress and burn-out in different ways. Some team members may try to “switch off” at work to numb themselves to the change around them. Others may take things very personally and become over-sensitive to what’s happening in the organisation. Take the time to understand how each team member is feeling and find out what you can do to support them.
Burn-out can be a difficult passing phase for some; for others it can lead to more serious mental or emotional issues. For those who have experienced post-traumatic stress or abuse in the past, being in a difficult work environment can trigger serious challenges.
Organisations and leaders have a responsibility to look out for their employees and make sure their emotional wellness is being considered and cared for throughout times of major change. Bringing specialist coaches on board to support your teams holistically is an effective way to prevent or address change exhaustion as you move through transformation.