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Do You Even Realize How Your Burnout Culture Is Hampering Your Growth?

Teams that go the extra mile every day inevitably slam into a wall.
Do You Even Realize How Your Burnout Culture Is Hampering Your Growth?
Image credit: PeopleImages | Getty Images

As entrepreneurs, many of us wear as a badge of honor our hard-charging work ethic and commitment, at all costs, to the success of the business. We’re prouder still of our team members who display such dedication and relentlessly go the extra mile (often without the carrot of significant equity). But, as with so much in life, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. Too many entrepreneurs don’t understand how burned out their employees are.

According to a Workforce Institute study, 95 percent of HR professionals think that employee burnout is sabotaging a workforce’s productivity. In contrast, a recent study we conducted showed that a third of employees felt burnt-out, but over 49 percent of employees felt their managers had no idea about the extra time they put into their work. Most business leaders don’t realize they have a problem, let alone seek to understand why it’s happening.

What’s more, the argument that burnt-out employees are less productive doesn’t seem to change hearts or minds of employers who see overworking employees as a necessary evil in order to compete.

So, this might make them sit up and think: the poor management practices that foster a culture of employee burnout also have significant potential ramifications in restricting business growth. Here’s three key reasons why this is happening and what you can do about it:

Related: 10 Signs You're Burning Out (And How To Stop It)

1. A sample of one.

As leaders, we’re keen on making data-driven decisions. Our industry experience, heightened drive and ability to process and apply data allows us to get tasks done efficiently. Data and the associated automation increasingly help to inform and action almost every decision made - from pricing to payables to promotions -- with one important exception: people.

When it comes to managing employees time we typically base decisions on experience and gut instinct, not data. That’s because we, as experienced business people make assessments on how long certain deliverables should take based on a sample size of one: me, myself and I. Entrepreneurs often don’t record or analyze people’s time to anywhere near the degree they should, leading to unrealistic expectations.

The impact here is that flawed assumptions on what the business can deliver and by when persist in all business planning. Finally, you reach a certain terminal velocity that you just can’t break out of. Growth stalls.

To mitigate unrealistic expectations, business owners should collect and review actual data on how long each individual employee spends on any and all tasks. By gathering and reviewing data on how tasks are achieved, leaders have more knowledgeable insights into the ways their employees work and how resources are allocated.

This data will allow for informed decisions about workloads, but also give leaders opportunities to share their expertise with employees. Using data helps to plan resources so that employees don’t feel as though they are set up to fail, overworking to get tasks done and perpetuating a cycle of unrealistic expectations which culminates in the business getting stuck in neutral, or worse.

Related: How to Recognize and Beat Burnout

2. Hidden burnout.

Business leaders are also often timid about monitoring the overall picture of an individual employee’s workload for fear of “micro-managing”. However, you are likely doing a disservice to your team members when not getting a full picture of how much blood, sweat and tears they are giving to the cause! 

Overworked employees have a direct, negative effect on a business’s ability to scale and grow and managers should be to blame for this. Lack of visibility into the day to day workload of your employees is a poor management practice that wears out employees and can ultimately cripple the business.

It should also be done with a softer approach in tandem. Weekly in-person debriefs with employees are a great way to detect whether they are saddled with too much and how it’s affecting them individually. Too many business leaders have no idea how much they are pushing their employees, which will present a challenge in maintaining growth and preventing a mass talent exodus. While having employees that understand the value of hard work and dedication is key for driving a successful business, especially in professional industries, having employees that are continuously burnt-out ultimately affects their personal productivity and the productivity of the business itself.

Related: 3 Effective Ways to Manage Employee Burnout

3. Feedback from the bottom up.

Whether it’s your senior leadership team or the summer intern, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be dismissive of feedback from any corner. Especially feedback related to certain projects, clients or tasks. As founders, we don’t always understand the day to day happenings of our employees and by taking feedback and learning, we can better align our expectations. Implementing feedback also provides a level of transparency that benefits employees in allowing them to see firsthand the value they are bringing to the business.

Find a specific project every month, or quarter, to evaluate with your employees and proactively ask for feedback. This technique will show employees that as the leader you are open to this type of dialogue to improve processes. Using feedback to adjust the scope of future projects is not only beneficial to employees, but to the business’s bottom line.

The truth is, while it can be gratifying that your team works hard, going the extra mile for you and your business, as a leader, poor management styles are the core cause of employee burnout which in turn is restricting your company growth.