Stress Management

Team Burnout Is Real and You Might be the Cause

Bosses who make work more stressful than it has to be aren't doing anybody, including their company, any good.
Team Burnout Is Real and You Might be the Cause
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7 min read
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We know burnout is very real. It can be brought on by taking on too many responsibilities, grappling with financial concerns or even failing to meet expectations. Unrecognized and unresolved, burnout can lead to some very serious health concerns, including cardiovascular issues.

The thing with burnout, however, is that it’s often something entrepreneurs do to themselves: working 80-plus hours a week or taking on six different roles within their companies. But that stress can result in employees who also get stressed out enough to feel the burn.

Here are the main ways you're driving them to burnout without realizing it.

1. You have unclear expectations.

When I was a freelancer, I had an infuriating client. The client would request an article, with guidelines regarding every expectation. I followed the outline, only for the client to come back with revision after revision.

Eventually, it just wasn’t worth it. I was spending more time with this client than the account was worth because the client constantly changed his mind about what he wanted.

If you want to be an effective leader, you need to know exactly what you want of your team and clearly explain it. Your team members need to be able to tie your expectations to the bigger picture.

Related: Employees Only Meet Expectations When They Know What's Expected

2. Your requirements are impossible.

There are times when a job just isn’t possible. Let’s say you’re in the drone manufacturing business. You just received a massive order and guarantee it will be filled within a week. The problem? There’s no way your small team can deliver on this promise, even if each team member works overtime.

Not only are your team members exhausted and stressed, but they also feel they’ve failed you because they couldn’t fulfill the order.

As an entrepreneur, here’s a rule to live by: Only promise what you can deliver. Know how far you and your team can realistically go.

Related: Giving Customers More Than They Asked for Is Too Much of a Good Thing

3. You refuse to grant autonomy.

Want your teammates to thrive? Empower them by letting them take the ball and run with it. In other words, stop micromanaging and looking over your teammates’ shoulders. As long as they get things done, it doesn’t matter how they do their jobs.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set boundaries -- it means giving your team more ownership. Did a team member just receive a certificate in social media management? Let her use their new skills by running your organization’s social accounts.

Related: 6 Ways to Encourage Autonomy With Your Employees

4. You don't pay enough.

Try as you might, some jobs will always be stressful. But if the pay is good, people can overcome or justify that stress.

Being an airline pilot is one of the most stressful jobs out there, but pilots make more than six figures. On the other hand, some enlisted military personnel -- part of the most stressful job category -- make less than $30,00. Which job seems destined for burnout?

Related: 8 Reasons Giving Your Employees a Raise Will Hurt Your Business

5. You don't allow enough downtime.

“Crunch times” are inevitable for most businesses. For accountants, it's the first couple months of the year. A beach resort would be busiest during the summer. Retailers experience it during the holiday season.

Sometimes, this isn’t bad; this intensity can help your team kick it into high gear. But you can’t expect your employees to fire on all cylinders 24/7. They're human. They need time to relax, destress and recover.

You can help your team members achieve this by not bothering them when they’re “off the clock,” encouraging breaks throughout the day, creating a generous time-off policy and providing ways to blow off steam. This could be anything from launching a wellness program to taking them to a concert.

Related: The Legal Implications of Expecting Employees to Work After Hours

6. The team member isn't a good fit for the job.

In an ideal world, you would work with talented people who you also like. While that's part of building an awesome culture within your company, there has to be a balance. If you only hire people you like but who are not the most talented, they eventually will be unable to be able to handle everything you ask of them. Eventually, they’ll crash and burn.

Hire people you enjoy working with -- you’re going to spend a lot of time with them. But make sure they have the chops to properly do their jobs. If not, you need to hire someone more talented -- even if you like the other candidate more.

Related: The Future Of Hiring, According to LinkedIn

7. You don't recognize their hard work.

We all love being recognized for our hard work and dedication. When you see a team member going above and beyond, let her know though public praise, awards or bonuses. A handwritten thank-you note goes a long way toward keeping burnout at bay.

Related: Want to Improve Office Morale? Recognize Good Work. (Infographic)

8. You punish mistakes with severe consequences.

Mistakes happen. Instead of belittling a team member in front of everyone else or threatening to fire him, pull him aside and bring it to his attention. It could have been a minor oversight or explained by a detail you weren't aware of.

If he didn’t understand what he did wrong, it’s your responsibility to show him how to do it correctly. You don’t want this to be a recurring problem, but you have to cut your team slack when an innocent mistake is made.

Related: Move Away From Shame-Based Management to Inspire Productivity

9. Your team doesn't collaborate effectively.

Unproductive meetings that drag on and on, forcing people who don’t get along to collaborate together: These are just a couple examples of ineffective collaboration.

To prevent this from happening, only schedule necessary meetings; keep them short and to the point. Also, listen to your team members. If they’re telling you they don’t get along with someone else, find ways to improve the relationship prior to expecting tremendous output on their collaborative efforts.

Related: Why Collaboration Is Essential to Entrepreneurship

10. You continue to push failed top-down policies.

Ditch the failed top-down policies. If you implement a policy asking team members to refrain from sending work-related emails on the weekends, but you continue to bombard your team, you need to scratch that policy or set a better example.

Most of us aren't aware we’ve been contributing to our team’s burnout until it’s too late. Thankfully, there are plenty of signs your team may be experiencing burnout. One easy one to spot is declining productivity or work quality. Beyond hard productivity numbers, this can be seen through a person disconnecting from work or calling out sick constantly.

Do your teammates seem especially sensitive lately? Do they flinch when you begin to provide feedback? If you've been stopped by team members asking you to help them reprioritize their work or asked when things might slow down so they can get to Project X, you're probably dealing with a case of burnout being displayed through scheduling issues rather than a direct conversation.

Other red flags include more conflicts or tension at work, as well as increased complaining. If one of your hardest workers is making snarky comments about the likelihood of a project succeeding, stop what you're doing and investigate further.

Finally, a high employee turnover rate is a big sign your team is suffering. Employees who would rather work for someone else than deal with your constant demands are trying to tell you something, albeit in a very indirect way. Losing your best employees to other people is a worst-case scenario, and it's exactly why you want to avoid fueling burnout.

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