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Targeted advice for managers to prevent employee burnout.


Targeted advice for managers to prevent employee burnout. Targeted advice for managers to prevent employee burnout.

Key Takeaways

  • Burnout can lead to lost productivity and employee turnover.
  • Effective managers prioritize continuous learning and open communication.
  • Flexible work arrangements promote autonomy and productivity.
  • Prioritizing employee well-being sends a powerful message of value and support.
  • Consistent investment in manager development is key to creating a burnout-proof workplace.

Are you familiar with the story of Sisyphus? Forever condemned to roll a boulder uphill, only to watch it roll back down again. That's what burnout feels like. Exhaustion seeps into your bones, the inbox becomes a monster, and the once-inspiring work feels like an endless chore. According to a Gallup poll, 63% of burnt-out workers are more likely to call in a “sick day,” which has a significant financial impact on businesses due to lost productivity. This burnout has a snowball effect, eventually leaving too many team members with no choice but to leave. But here's the harsh truth: people don't leave organizations; they leave their managers. 

Let's face it—the traditional workplace can feel like a one-size-fits-all model. This can lead to disengaged employees who feel like just another cog in the machine. Research suggests that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $450 and $550 billion annually. But what if there was a way to create a work environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and empowered?

Imagine a manager who's more than just a taskmaster—a coach and advocate—someone who celebrates your unique strengths and fosters a collaborative environment. This, my friends, is the kind of manager who can not only prevent burnout but also boost productivity and employee satisfaction. That's why empowering and equipping managers at all levels is a critical strategy for preventing burnout and fostering a thriving, inclusive workplace.

Building better bosses: The key to employee satisfaction

Exceptional managers are committed to continuous learning. The challenge arises when high-performing individual contributors are promoted to managerial and leadership roles. This practice is not inherently flawed. However, the issue lies in the unrealistic expectation from organizations that excellence in one domain will seamlessly translate to proficiency in another. The truth is, while many people are promoted into management roles, they don't actually have the skill sets needed to be an effective manager—they never learned. Even if they have prior management experience, workplace dynamics change and evolve so much that there needs to be an emphasis on consistent and frequent leadership training to meet current needs.

Regular training and development on leadership, communication, and emotional intelligence can equip managers to navigate challenging situations and build strong relationships with their teams. For example, workshops on recognizing burnout signs further empower them to identify struggling team members and offer the right level of support.

The key is to foster a culture of open feedback. When employees feel comfortable providing input on how they work best, they are committed to creating a work environment that supports individual needs and preferences. Imagine setting deadlines and milestones together as a team, incorporating diverse perspectives to ensure everyone feels heard and valued. This fosters ownership and reduces the feeling of simply being replaceable. By developing these skills, managers become better equipped to handle the emotional aspects of leadership, creating a more positive and productive work environment for everyone.

Flexibility is freedom

Imagine the freedom to structure your workday around your life, not vice versa. Studies show that, despite the lack of micromanagement or pressure from office onlookers, employees are more productive with flexible work. Flexible work arrangements like remote work, flexible hours, hybrid work, and part-time schedules offer employees autonomy to contribute when they can be most productive. Rather than having to worry about who's picking up kids, or when to schedule that needed doctor's appointment, employees can focus on the work even more and in a more meaningful way. This isn't about slacking off; it's about focusing on results, not hours worked.

Managers play a crucial role here, and organizations need to equip them properly. They need clear guidelines to help tailor work arrangements based on team needs and individual preferences, rather than being handcuffed to policy. This is where flexible hybrid work models come in handy. 

Once they are equipped, managers should lead by example. If managers embrace flexible work styles, it sends a powerful message to their teams.

The result? A more adaptable and resilient workforce. Employees who manage stress better and maintain a healthy work-life balance are less susceptible to burnout and more likely to bring their best selves to work.

Prioritizing well-being

A healthy and happy employee is a productive employee. Period. Organizations that actively support employee well-being send a clear message: we value you as a whole person, not just your output.

This might look like offering wellness programs, including mental health days, and access to counseling services. Managers are trained to set realistic goals and acknowledge that hard work plays a vital role. It's about helping teams prioritize together, not just saying everything is equally important.

Regular check-ins create a safe space for open discussions about workload and stress. Encouraging employees to participate in setting deadlines fosters ownership and reduces anxiety. When employees feel supported and valued, they're more likely to be satisfied and loyal and less likely to succumb to burnout.

Before you think, “Well, that's just common sense,” when was the last time you checked on your managers' well-being? Let's face it: Middle managers especially get pressure from all sides. From the top, they answer questions on productivity, and from their direct reports, they navigate countless personnel issues, sudden “fire drills,” and so much more. The unspoken expectation is that if you are in a leadership role, you just smile and get on.

Not only should managers prioritize the well-being of their teams, but their well-being should also be of priority.

Building a burnout-proof workplace

So, how do we turn these practices into reality? Here's the recipe:

  • Invest in consistent leadership development.
  • Audit policies and practices to ensure managers are empowered to co-create work environments with their team to produce the best results.
  • Support individual well-being at an organizational level. Create a culture that stops and checks in and promotes practices that create a thriving workforce.

The takeaway: Investing in your managers is an investment in all your people

Combating employee burnout requires proactive, not reactive, strategies. By adopting the mantle of empathetic leadership and championing their team's welfare, managers can cultivate a supportive, communicative, and balanced workplace culture. Initiatives such as regular check-ins, offering flexible work schedules, and providing opportunities for skill enhancement empower managers to not only help their teams survive but thrive in today's fast-paced work environment. Prioritizing the mental well-being and satisfaction of employees paves the way for unparalleled productivity, innovation, and sustained success.

Empowered managers stand at the heart of a workplace resilient to burnout. Equipping them with the necessary tools and training for effective leadership ensures an atmosphere where employees feel appreciated and inspired.

Image of Den ​​Mondejar
Den ​​Mondejar

Den ​​Mondejar is a marketing professional and change leader passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).  For over 15 years, he has worked on developing​ ​teams, improving experiences, and increasing employer brand value.  At Aquent, he leads our Diversity+ recruiting solution, helping small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and Fortune 100 companies achieve their workforce diversity goals in a meaningful way.  Den also sits on Aquent's Diversity Council, is the BIPOC Employee Resource Group Co-Chair, and has completed Cornell University's Diversity and Inclusion certification program.  


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