Early Detection is Key to Combat Employee Burnout

Employee Burnout

Are you dealing with a once-enthusiastic, high functioning employee who barely makes it to work on time and has difficulty performing job duties? If so, the employee may be experiencing employee burnout. If ignored, employee burnout will affect productivity and the overall morale of the entire office.

The key is to detect employee burnout before it infects other employees and spirals out of control.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

What is employee burnout? Just like the term implies, it can be compared to the life cycle of a fire. Think of it like a smoldering flame – once it catches fire, if not managed, the flame will burn out of control until it eventually burns itself out. This is bad news when applied to an employee’s day-to-day existence, not to mention the potential to “catch another employee on fire” in the process.

According to Psychology Today, burnout is a sign of chronic stress, which is often experienced by high-functioning personality types. In the workplace, it presents itself in overworked employees who often lack management support or assistance due to staff deficiencies.

In most cases, the employee themselves are to blame, by taking on too much responsibility and handling it on their own, until it becomes impossible to control. The bad news is that employee burnout is gradual, often left undetected until too late. However, there are warning signs indicating employee burnout is underway. The trick is for peers/management to notice the signs before it’s too late.

The natural life-cycle of employee burnout often mimics the following steps:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Mistakes/Oversights
  3. Heightened Sensitivity to Criticism
  4. Isolation
  5. Cynicism
  6. Absenteeism

Burnout presents as exhaustion first. This is the time when the burned-out employee will often make mistakes or oversights when performing job duties. As a result, the natural inclination to protect themselves kicks in making them sensitive to criticism. Next, the employee will disengage, often isolating themselves from peers. If relief is still absent, the employee becomes cynical, which can lead to illness (real and perceived) and frequent absenteeism.

If the employee takes control of the spiraling cycle, they will find a position elsewhere. However, not all burned out employees are motivated to solve the problem for themselves. In these types of cases, the burnout will stay in the position, spreading the dissatisfaction to coworkers. The result is a toxic work environment.

Extinguishing the Flames

Employee burnout can happen in any size organization. The cost to replace a highly-skilled employee can sometimes be more than 200 percent of their salary annually. Take the time to observe a struggling employee, then get to the heart of the matter before the burnout affects others and/or the employee quits.

The opportunity to salvage the situation happens before the employee becomes defensive, cynical and checked out, isolating themselves from peers. If an employee seems overly exhausted, set aside time to discover why. When mistakes are made, get to the heart of the matter by sitting down with the employee and discovering why.

Chances are if the burnout is detected early, before the employee “doesn’t care” anymore, the situation can be turned around – extinguish the fire before it burns out of control!

Timothy Dimoff Understands the Challenges of the Modern Workforce

Human resource professionals are the gatekeepers of office morale. However, it takes all workers to make or break the company culture. Tim’s HR-related topics can help any organization understand the warning signs presented by employees and the steps needed to nurture a positive workplace environment beneficial for all. Contact Tim to schedule The Impact of a Toxic Workplace on Employees, or a combination of HR-related topics to Create Your Own Talking Points, for a presentation specific to your organization’s needs.

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