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Workplace

Employee Burnout, Part 2: What Managers Can Do

by Ben Wigert and Sangeeta Agrawal

Story Highlights

  • Managers are responsible for addressing workplace stressors
  • When employees are burned out, it's hard to reverse morale
  • Managers need to do five things that highly correlate with preventing burnout

In this three-part series, we examine 15 workplace factors that correlate highly with employee burnout. We discussed the top five causes of employee burnout in the first article. In this article, we explore the next five factors most strongly related to burnout, with additional insights on the role managers play in preventing it.

Gallup's research shows that a crucial element in whether or not workers experience burnout on the job is how managers treat their employees.

Managers are responsible for fostering positive employee experiences and addressing stressors at work. It's their duty to set clear expectations, remove barriers, facilitate collaboration and ensure that employees feel fully supported to do their best work. How employees feel about their job is largely on the manager's shoulders.

When employees feel burned out, it becomes even more challenging to get them back on track. Employees experiencing burnout are half as likely to discuss performance goals with their manager. They become resistant to coaching and develop a mindset fixated on problems rather than future opportunities or development. Most of their energy and mental focus is on little more than daily survival.

But managers can help employees put a stop to burnout before it starts.

How Managers Can Prevent Burnout

Fortunately, burnout isn't irreversible, and there are steps managers can take to prevent it. After addressing the five main causes of burnout from our previous article, Gallup's analytics suggest five additional things that managers can do that are highly correlated with reducing burnout:

1. Listen to work-related problems.

This may sound obvious, and that's a good thing, because the best way to prevent employee burnout is having a manager who actively listens to work-related problems. Employees whose manager is always willing to listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out. Listening to and understanding employees' needs is the first step in supporting them. Not only do employees need to hear that their manager will address their problems, but they also want to feel like their manager cares about them as people first.

2. Encourage teamwork.

Coworkers provide another line of emotional support for employees who are struggling. Coworkers often understand the stress of a job better than managers do. Managers should not sit on the sidelines, however. It's the manager's responsibility to create an environment where teamwork thrives, people help one another and everyone has someone who is willing to listen.

3. Make everyone's opinion count.

Managers should actively solicit employees' opinions and ideas. When employees feel like their opinions are welcome and make a difference, they feel important, included and begin taking more responsibility for their performance. Ownership reduces burnout because it gives employees a feeling of control over their work, rather than feeling like work is something that happens to them.

4. Make work purposeful.

Employees are significantly less likely to be burned out when they can connect their work to their company's mission or purpose in a way that makes their job feel important. People do not just go to work for a paycheck; they want to find meaning in what they do. Managers must do more than point to the mission statement on the wall -- they must show how their employees' contributions make a difference in the world.

5. Focus on strengths-based feedback and development.

Employees who have the opportunity to do what they do best are 57% less likely to frequently experience burnout. Managers get the best out of their people when they can identify what those people do best, praise them for it, and help move them into tasks and partnerships that maximize their natural talents. The enthusiasm and optimism associated with strengths-based development reduce stress and help employees focus on success rather than seeing their job as a burden.

Don't Forget: Managers Can Experience Burnout Too

It's also worth keeping in mind that many employees who suffer burnout are managers themselves. Managers are just as likely, if not slightly more so, to suffer frequent or constant burnout than individual contributors (26% of managers vs. 24% of individual contributors). Managers are people, too, and they have the same fundamental human needs as individual contributors: the need to be heard, to feel like they are part of a team, to know they matter, to contribute meaningfully, and to learn and grow. And, of course, when managers are engaged, their employees are more likely to be engaged as well.

While managers play a primary role in reducing employee burnout, there are other external workplace factors that can either support or undercut the best managers. In the final article of this series, we explore the final five factors that organizational leaders and policies can focus on to help prevent burnout.

Access Gallup's solutions and insights to help prevent burnout in your employees:

Ryan Pendell contributed to this article.

Ben Wigert, Ph.D., is the Lead Researcher for Gallup's workplace management practice.

Sangeeta Agrawal is a Research Manager for Gallup.

Gallup


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