Do you suspect someone in your team is burning out?
Maybe they are exhausted all the time. Maybe they are increasingly agitated. Maybe they are struggling to deliver at work in the way you know they can.
It can be difficult to know the right thing to do. Read on for 7 tips for helping you manage someone with burnout.
(And if you aren’t sure what burnout looks like, don’t worry, you can download my Employee Burnout Checklist by clicking here.)
#1 Open up a conversation
Yes you might be the boss, and they might be part of your team, but you’re both people at the end of the day. Spend some 1-2-1 time, ask them how they are and share your observations of how they have been. Express your concern. You are the best person to know how to do this – you know your people – but, it could be along the lines of:
“Tell me how you’re doing. You don’t just seem yourself at the moment and I’d love to know if there’s anything I can support you with.”
“I’ve been wondering how you are. You appear really exhausted at the moment which can’t be pleasant for you. What’s going on for you at the moment?”
“I can tell something just isn’t right for you at the moment. Things that are normally really easy for you at work, don’t seem to be coming as naturally. How are you feeling at the moment?”
#2 Don’t assume what they need
It’s easy to get drawn into creating solutions for someone based on your own assumptions and projections. Avoid doing that at all costs. Managing and recovering from burnout can be done in many different ways. You deciding to take some responsibility off a team member to help them out could end up being the last straw for them. And that’s why it’s key that you always start with #1 and open up a conversation.
#3 Ask how you can help
As part of your conversation, ask open questions rather than steering them towards a solution. Ask them what they think will help them at the moment, what support you could put in place for them, and what they want from you. They might not know the answer straight away, so giving them time to think about it is a real bonus.
#4 Encourage them to see a health professional
It’s important to encourage them to see their doctor in the first instance. The most common symptom of burnout is persistent tiredness and it’s common that people don’t want to bother their doctor with “just feeling tired”. But, there are many reasons why someone can be experiencing chronic exhaustion and a medical professional will be able to advise and run any necessary tests.
#5 Ensure they have support outside of work
Understand what support they have in place outside of the workplace. If they are still at work and displaying all the signs of burnout, you can be sure that outside of work they will have very little left in the tank. It might also be the case that they haven’t told anyone what they are experiencing whilst they attempt to just push on through. Sharing with their nearest and dearest can be daunting, as burnout is hard to explain, but ensuring they have a support network in place is really key.
#6 Explore the route to recovery
Whether they are on the path to burnout, or already there, there is a path to recovery available to them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a long weekend of sleeping. If they are to avoid it becoming a repeating pattern it needs work to understand the root cause, coupled with them making a series of changes. This can be hard to do alone when you’re already exhausted. Exploring what recovery can look like is a great first step.
#7 Check-in regularly
This is not just one conversation. Agree together on how regularly to catch-up and understand how things are going. Also, work out the way for them to get in touch with you if they need to talk before a scheduled check-in – give explicit permission. It’s likely that it’s not easy for them to ask for help, so if they do put their hand up, respond positively and straight away.
You can make a critical difference
Burnout is a tricky subject for a manager observing it in a colleague. You can make a real difference to that person’s life by how you handle it and the support you put in place. You don’t need to do that alone – we all know how busy and demanding your role is.
I help Directors and Senior Managers with their teams all the time, and if you’re seeing burnout in your team, I can help you by coaching your team member and bringing my health professional experience into it, and we can also look at bringing resilience-based interventions into your team.
And don’t forget this Employee Burnout Checklist – a free guide I’ve put together to help you understand the risk factors, signs, and what you can do.