All employees, but especially your best and hardest workers, can be vulnerable to job burnout. The bad news is that once it happens, about the only thing that can help a worker recover is time away from the job. The good news is that managers can take steps to stop burnout before it starts.
Check your skills with this self-assessment. For each item, rate yourself from 1 "never" to 5 "always."
1. I try hard to make sure my people see how the work they do makes a difference and helps everyone succeed.
2. I let my employees handle their work the way they think best. If that means being flexible about schedules or procedures, that's OK, as long as things get done right.
3. I do everything I can to make sure that the quality of my people's work is recognized and rewarded—including by their co-workers.
4. I try to give my employees projects to complete rather than simply tasks to perform.
5. I pay more attention to whether my people feel overworked than to whether they actually are overworked.
6. I encourage the team to set clear goals—and I join them in celebrating when each one is met.
7. I want to know when my team members think that their work conflicts with their personal values or leaves them feeling uneasy.
8. I try to take time to make my team a fun place to work and to not be too busy for a joke.
What do your answers mean?
Higher scores are better. If your total score was 31 or higher, you're doing a good job at keeping burnout at bay. Scores between 15 and 30 suggest you should take stock of where your team stands and what you can do better to prevent burnout. And if you scored 14 or lower, you may already be seeing burnout on your team—or worse yet, be experiencing burnout yourself.
Experts tell us there are four main work situations that lead to burnout:
1. "It makes no difference what I do." People who work long and hard to solve problems that don't ever seem to go away, such as social workers and nurses, often succumb to this kind of burnout.
2. "Nobody cares." When there's no reward for excellence and no appreciation of a job well done, burnout tends to follow quickly.
3. "My job's always the same." People whose job has no beginning, middle or end, such as production line workers, end up feeling overloaded and burned out, even when the workload itself isn't that extreme.
4. "I feel guilty." It's incredibly stressful to take on work when you don't believe in the mission or feel less than positive about the role you have to play.