How To Beat Job Burnout By Joe Love

Have you or a member of your staff recently felt physically depleted? Have you felt helpless to make changes or to make a difference? Have you felt a sense of hopelessness or felt disillusioned? These are all symptoms of job burnout.

Burnout can be costly, for both individuals and companies. Burned-out workers have lower moral, higher absenteeism and tardiness, and greater turnover. People who suffer burnout develop a negative concept of themselves and negative attitudes toward their work and even life itself. They can become detached, contemptuous, or callous toward customers, clients and colleagues.

The downsizing of many major corporations and the "no-growth status" of many smaller businesses has increased pressure on employees at all levels for higher productivity and in many instances reduced pay as well. In addition, within many organizations, there are fewer opportunities for promotion and growth.

The philosophy of "Let's do more with less" is a recurring theme with many businesses in our highly competitive global market. With companies, and therefore employees, under the gun to produce and with poor opportunities in job market, job burnout is an unfortunate fact of business life for too many people.

In these tense and uncertain times, many employees are afraid to make waves. Instead of making their needs known, they do exactly what the company wants, sometimes at great personal cost. Many employees today feel trapped due to bottom-line pressures. They just do what they need to do to keep their jobs."

Many organizations today no longer encourage employee creativity and innovation, and employees no longer feel like part of the team. It's rare that a company in today's environment recognizes that encouraging innovation and inspiring its people to greatness by allowing them to take initiative and calculated risks is the real imperative.

One of problems is that many companies today think of employees as inventory that can be juggled around interchangeably to solve problems, rather than as critical assets whose talents should be used to improve operations, develop new products and services, and provide award-winning customer service.

When I'm consulting with larger organizations a common problem I often find is that employees and managers who deal with coworkers suffering from burnout are too quick to classify burnout as a 'personal problem.' In most instances, the employee's burnout really stems from an organizational problem.

Employees don't leave their personal lives at home, nor do they leave their work lives at the office. The two frequently create a compounding effect that, if not checked, can lead to a downward spiral of mistakes and accidents on the job and reduced quality of life for the employee.

There are four major causes of burnout:

1. Poor supervisory practices. If a manager or supervisor is overly critical, expects too much, does not discuss problems, organizes work poorly, and fails to recognize employees for a job well done it can lead to employee burnout.

2. Lack of teamwork. If coworkers fail to pitch in where needed, work together poorly, or have unresolved tensions and bad feelings among themselves it can lead to job burnout.

3. Unresolved workload. If employees believe they are overworked, can't meet deadlines and can't keep up with changes, then they are bound to suffer from job burnout.

4. Unfair company practices. Employees who perceive that promotions are not awarded fairly, or employees who perceive that they are treated differently based on, say race or age, are likely candidates for burnout.

The good news is that burnout is curable and furthermore, it is preventable. Avoiding, alleviating, or curing job burnout may take a little effort, but you can succeed.

The following are solutions that can help prevent and cure job burnout:

• Evaluate your current position. Try listing the duties you like most. Examine the priorities you place on daily activities. Then, by keeping a time log, determine how you can spend each workday. Focus on how you can make your position more challenging. Write an objective (as objective as possible) skill evaluation of yourself.

• Seek the help of a professional. Many companies provide employee-assistance programs that offer career counseling. Have the individual critique you and challenge you on your skills assessment, providing you with a "reality check."

• Find your ideal position. See if there is another position, even within your current company, that might better suit your needs, regardless of whether it is at a lower salary.

• Develop a personal action plan. Realize that you are the person most responsible for your career and for avoiding or curtailing burnout. Keep your plan simple. All it should tell you is where you are going (goals) and how you are going to get there (action steps). People who know what their goals are, and who then focus on those goals and don't get off the track, will avoid or alleviate burnout.

• Prove your worth. Seek opportunities for quick and visible improvements in your area of responsibility to prove that you and your people can make a difference.

• Realize that teamwork and initiative begin with you. Create an environment is which your people are encouraged to work together to develop and implement ideas for improving business operations.

• Balance your life. People do a better job and have less burnout when they balance their business and personal lives. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you have a good circle of family and friends who will provide you with support when needed. Take the time to do fun things. For example, cultivating an outside interest or a hobby might serve as a catharsis for the pent-up creativity that you don't feel that you are using on the job.

• Experiment with changing you daily routine. Altering the routine can be a cure for burnout. Take a different route to work. If you normally sit at your desk and read the newspaper while you eat your lunch, try eating and then going for a walk instead.

• Find a mentor. Seeking the counsel of someone with whom you can closely identify both emotionally and intellectually, someone who is older and who has been through a lot can help you sort out your concerns and arrive at viable solutions. Interacting with somebody who you can respect, and who has a lot of the same goals and the value systems that you do, can help beat job burnout.

Job burnout is a common but avoidable ailment. When you learn how to recognize potential causes of burnout and effectively head them off you will become a much more positive, happier, and productive person in both your business and personal life.

Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and [ parked domain] success coaching programs.

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