How to stop staff burning out – and why you might miss the clues

Written by: Pam Burrows, Professional Speaker, Pam Burrows People Booster

Published: 06/02/2019

Pam calls for leaders to hone their skills at spotting staff stress and avoiding burnout with 10 easily missed clues.

We all like to think we have the best interests of our people at heart, but then people go off sick without us spotting any of the warning signs. It’s easy to miss some of those stress red flags, because sometimes staff actively want to hide it from you, and sometimes they’re even hiding it from themselves!

Here’s ten clues to look out for:

  1. When they say, “It’s ok, I’m ok, I love my job!”: They love the job, they even love the pressure, so they might not spot when it’s getting too much. Help them to do a proper audit of their wellbeing and balance.
  1. The Perfectionist: Colleagues might joke about it, but perfectionism results in constant self-criticism which can lead to a sense of overwhelm. Make sure people understand what your expectations are and what constitutes ‘good enough.’
  2. They skip breaks, lunch and holidays: One skipped lunch on an unusually busy day won’t create burnout. When missing out on re-charge time becomes the norm, it’s time to take stock and re-balance.
  3. They take work home: Do you know how much work they’re doing at home and how many hours that adds up to? Just working out the numbers with them can be a wake-up call.
  4. They never say no: It’s tempting to let your most helpful person carry on helping, but if they don’t know how to say ‘no’, they’re going to need some help sooner or later.
  5. The Fixer, the strong one, the one who always keeps going and gets things done. It’s easy to overlook them and assume they’re always going to be that way. They’re probably the one who keeps others going so it might be hard to get them to acknowledge they need help, but now is better than later when they break under the strain.
  6. They won’t accept thanks or compliments: If they’re not acknowledging the good stuff they’re achieving, there’s a danger they’ll just keep pushing themselves. Another time to take stock.
  7. They get angry at the little things that get in the way of progress: This might be a sign of someone who has become obsessive about getting as much done as possible. Help them get some perspective and be realistic about what’s possible, what’s expected and what’s healthy.
  8. It’s the last straw! When staff are cramming their diaries and there are no gaps to allow for emergencies, simple unexpected minor things can feel like the last straw. It’s time to plan some ‘Sanity Spaces’ in.
  9. A bad night’s sleep: Leaders need to see the whole person. If you have no worries about their work performance but they’re talking about poor sleep, stomach ache, muscle problems or they’re eating junk, sugar and drinking too much caffeine, the warning signs are there; it’s time to rebalance.

And while you’re at it, remember to look after your precious self too!

Pam Burrows, People Booster, is a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and Neuro-Science Professional.

She writes a weekly blog to help keep self-care top of your to-do list, you can sign up for that and check your burnout risk in her quick Burnout Quiz (this link will take you away from our website).

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