How to Identify Employee Burnout and Take Action

Employee Assessments
June 6, 2013

You’ve seen it, but you’re not sure what it is. Employees are taking less initiative. Productivity has slipped. You see employees talking more but they hush up or split up when you walk by. You sense discontentment.

You haven’t implemented any changes, so what’s going on?

Maybe that is exactly the issue – you haven’t made any changes. Everything is the ‘same-old’ and this is leading to a ho-hum attitude.

If a role stays the same, and you don’t introduce new challenges or promote professional growth, you can expect employee burnout. New employees are actively engaged but over time, participation wanes and eventually drops off.

Obviously other factors such as stress and conflict can also lead to burnout. This is especially true for organizations that have downsized during the recession. Employees faced with an increased workload are especially at risk of burnout as they struggle with the mounting pressure mourning lost co-workers.

Employee Burnout Symptoms

I have been there, and I can tell you that burnout leads to feelings of exhaustion and detachment. Even after a good night’s sleep, you wake up with a sense of dread at the thought of another day’s work.

Once enthusiastic about the job and what could be accomplished, feelings of emotional exhaustion were a surprise. That “go-get-em” attitude was replaced with “who-cares.” As hopelessness settled in, “can-do” was replaced with “can’t-do.”

Burned out employees lose motivation, creative talent, and the ability to offer innovative solutions. As a result, productivity suffers.

If you are noticing an increase in:

  • Employee turnover
  • Employee absenteeism
  • Employee conflict
  • Job ineffectiveness

Or a decrease in:

  • Employee attendance
  • Participation in company events
  • Job satisfaction
  • Job productivity
  • Commitment to tasks or projects

Then you are facing employee burnout.

Beware – burnout can creep from one individual to another as negative thoughts are shared. It can negatively impact the entire team and spread throughout the workplace.

Improving Your Workplace

If your organization is employee-oriented then you understand the importance of creating a positive and engaging environment. A positive environment will keep employees because they are happy. Happy employees are more productive. Happy employees also lead to happy customers.

Employee burnout can strike any organization or group. When it occurs you need to take immediate action to stop it in the early stages before it infects your entire organization.

Employee Survey

Identifying the cause of burnout is important. An employee survey can be valuable in identifying the issues but you will need to ask the right questions and be ready to act on them.

“But,” you say, “I dread these surveys. I can’t seem to get the data I really need that will result in a change.”

If you are dreading it, you can bet your employees are too. They are expecting you to act in their best interests. If you fail to follow through on the information they have entrusted you with, then you might as well forget about conducting any future surveys.

You need to build a trusting relationship among your employees and management in order to create a positive workplace. You, as a manager, need to track and communicate what is and isn’t working.

So before you implement that employee survey, be sure you are collecting information that you will act on. And be ready with a plan.

Wondering what information you should collect? Hold an employee focus group. This will engage and empower your employees. These meetings should be held onsite to convey the message that your workplace is a safe place to share thoughts.

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