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You know what burnout is, right? According to a recent study, depending on how your employees deal with stress at work, they may be at risk for three different types of workplace burnout—and all have different solutions. Here’s a closer look at how each of the types might manifest, and what to do.
1. Overload burnout. This type of burnout affects energetic, driven people who have high standards and ambitions. These ideal employees may not seem to be at risk for burnout, but in reality, will work to the point of exhaustion in search of success. These employees can feel stifled when bureaucracy, politics, or lack of upward mobility keeps them from achieving their career goals, and their burnout is often expressed in terms of concerns about job hierarchy.
2. Worn-out burnout. The opposite type of workplace burnout, worn-out, hits employees who feel incompetent, inadequate or unable to keep up at work. These employees tend to be passive, so instead of taking action, they spiral downward in a vicious cycle: Since they aren’t performing up to par, they aren’t rewarded, which de-motivates them further. They express burnout by avoiding work.
3. Under-challenged burnout. A middle ground between the other types, under-challenged workplace burnout occurs when employees have monotonous jobs that don’t challenge them enough. They manage stress by gradually distancing themselves from jobs and coworkers, becoming cynical and, eventually, completely disengaged.
To nip each type of workplace burnout in the bud, start by being observant. You won’t know what’s going on with employees unless you regularly interact with them. Pay attention to how workers are expressing themselves. Cynical comments, lack of interaction with coworkers, or frequent complaints can all be warning signs. Then:
1. For the overloaded burnout: This is the type of employee you most want to retain. If there truly is no room for advancement in your business, could a lateral move provide the new challenges these workers are seeking? Title changes and financial rewards, such as performance-based bonuses, can help to re-motivate these types of employees. Additionally, consider providing additional training and education so the person can gain new skills. For example, you might send these employees to industry events, conferences or webinars where they can absorb knowledge, then come back and share it with the team. Or you could offer flexible hours so the person can earn an advanced degree or pursue different objectives.
2. For the worn-out burnout: Determine what’s keeping these employees from success. Are they incompetent, do they lack the tools and empowerment they need, or do they simply need more training? Because these employees lack strong internal motivation, if you decide to keep them on board, you’ll need to build in lots of oversight, encouragement and rewards along the way.
3. For the under-challenged burnout: These workers need variety and stimulation. Perhaps you can redistribute work so employees share tasks with others and aren’t doing the same thing all day. Alternatively, try challenging the employee by delegating more difficult duties, and by having these types of employees train or mentor others on the staff.
Tailoring workplace burnout prevention to each type of situation takes a little extra work and thought, but the results will make it worth the effort.