How to Recognize the Symptoms of Employee Burnout

November 16th, 2012

It happens in every workplace. Employees who were once enthusiastic, confident workers start to come in late and call in sick more often. Their productivity falls. Their attitudes turn negative. These workers may be showing signs of employee burnout. As an employer or manager, how can you recognize the symptoms of burnout? How can you prevent it, or take action to help your employees recover?

Signs and Symptoms

When an employee who is typically on top of every task starts missing deadlines, turning in substandard work or shrugging off responsibilities, you should consider whether he might feel exhausted or stressed.

A change in demeanor is another indicator. Say a staff member who has always been polite, courteous and kind suddenly seems overly critical of others, hypersensitive to feedback and constructive criticism. Especially if she begins to exhibit angry or emotional outbursts, she may be feeling burnt out.

Any or all of these changes could be the result of anything from family problems to medical issues to substance abuse, so don’t jump to any hasty conclusions. Start by evaluating your employee’s work situation and looking for the following issues.

 Common Causes

  • Unrealistic goals and deadlines can leave employees feeling as though they are always running and never getting anywhere, causing exhaustion and frustration.
  • Unrealistic expectations can give employees the sense that they never do enough. If management and colleagues always expect more from certain staff members, they will lose initiative.
  • Similarly, when hard work goes unnoticed, employees can feel that they’re not good enough.
  • Unrealistic workloads, such as when one employee is tasked with doing the job of two people.
  • Employees who are often pulled in many directions or receive conflicting directives will be under strain.

Communication Is Key

So how can you prevent your employees from becoming burned out?

  • Make it very clear to your employees that they can approach you to discuss concerns and issues such as feeling overworked, bored or exceedingly stressed out.
  •  If you notice signs of burnout, meet one-on-one with the employee who seems to be struggling and give her a chance to vent.. Once you have an idea of what is causing these feelings, together you can decide what changes you can make.
  • Group discussions can be invaluable, particularly if you sense an overall feeling of job burnout among your team members. Hold regular meetings where your staff can share anxieties as well as ideas.
  • Be sure to communicate job responsibilities and goals, deadlines and other expectations. Ensure that everyone involved knows who is responsible for what and by when, including as many specifics as you can.

Of course, a great way to prevent burnout is to make sure you have enough skilled people working on your projects. If you’re seeing overloaded employees or burnout in your IT department, contact the IT staffing experts at Synerfac. We can work with you to create a cost-effective solution that can keep the problem from escalating.

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