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Compassionate leaders recognize the signs of employee burnout

Today’s blog post is my final tip in our video series on creating more compassionate workplaces.  This is strategy #18:  Learn to spot the signs of employee burnout.

Learn to spot the signs of employee burnout

To be clear, employee burnout is a real thing. Of course, it can have a devastating effect on the health and wellbeing of the sufferer, but from a business perspective, it can also cost your organization dearly.  Think: lost productivity, negativity in the workplace, and poor employee retention.  Employees with job burnout aren’t able to perform to the best of their abilities. And they have a negative toxic effect on their coworkers and morale. They’re also more likely to look for a new job, which you may think is a good thing, but if this is a pervasive problem, the revolving door out won’t stop with just one person.

Employee burnout is not always easy to spot, and it’s not limited to just one type of person. It can affect anyone, regardless of their type of job or their seniority. There are common signs that you can watch for in order to treat your staff with compassion.

Here are the most common ones …

  1. The first and most obvious sign is exhaustion. If you notice a sudden or consistent drop in energy levels, constant fatigue, and a decline in the quality of work, it could be a red flag.
  2. Performance is another indicator. Watch for a decrease in productivity, increased errors, and missed deadlines. Burnout can make tasks that were once manageable seem overwhelming.
  3. Withdrawal from the team or reduced engagement is a sign to look out for. If an employee who used to be active in team discussions and social events is now distant or disengaged, that’s a warning.
  4. Mood swings, irritability, and a generally negative attitude can also indicate burnout. Someone who was previously positive and motivated might become pessimistic and frustrated.
  5. Keep an eye on physical health. Frequent illnesses, unexplained aches, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns can be related to burnout.
  6. Frequent absenteeism, especially unexplained or excessive sick leave, is another telltale sign.
  7. Finally, be aware of signs of substance abuse, such as increased alcohol or caffeine consumption, as these can be coping mechanisms for dealing with burnout.

And here is what you should do next …

So what should you do if you observe signs of employee burnout?  Not surprisingly, it isn’t good enough to just spot the symptoms, as a compassionate leader, you have a responsibility to act to address the problem.  Start by having a private conversation with the affected employee, expressing your concern and offering support.  In Strategy #17, I suggested that you educate yourself about what resources are available to assist employees, so draw on that.  Encourage them to take time off, seek professional help if necessary, and consider workload adjustments.  It’s crucial to create an open and supportive atmosphere.  You could also encourage them to choose a hard -top time for answering emails, or use their allotted personal days.  Above all, if time off is necessary, it’s critical that you de-stigmatizing the need, and have a judgement-free return to work plan.

I hope this video tip series on creating a compassionate workplace has been insightful and helpful to you.  You can peruse the entire series here.  Stay tuned as I plan to begin a new video tip series early in 2024.

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