Burnout is a Symptom of Deeper Issues

This week we are continuing a look at burnout.  As common as it is now, years ago (when I experienced it) burnout was considered something very different than what it is today.  We called it “overwhelm” or worse yet, we told ourselves that we were weak, deficient, or just plain tired.  We never considered it to be what the World Health Organization has now defined it as: a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Not only do we have a definition, the WHO also describes three dimensions of employee burnout:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy[1]

In last week’s post “Burnout? It’s Real – and It’s Wreaking Havoc on Your Assets”, I shared with you the survey results of a workshop I conducted on burnout.  Amazingly, but not surprisingly, 33% of the participants stated they were experiencing burnout now, while an additional 44% experienced burnout several times during the last six months. 

Burnout is a symptom of deeper issues.

There are root causes of burnout; therefore, there are ways to address it.  Which is to say we can “successfully manage chronic workplace stress”. 

  • Unfair treatment at work. Leaders, do your actions and behaviors ensure that everyone is treated equally, fairly, and reasonably?  How are you engaging your virtual workers?
  • Unmanageable workload. Leaders, have you considered the number of projects any given employee is working on?  Have you considered their “normal, day-to-day responsibilities” that are added to these additional projects?  C-suite executives: Are there too many objectives in the overall organizational strategy?  Do you have the right people in the right seats with the right skills?
  • Unclear communication from managers. Leaders, be intentional with your messages whether they be email, text, or verbal.  Know what you want to say, including the reason behind the communication and the deliverables, before the conversation starts. 
  • Lack of manager support. Leaders, you have a heavy burden. I get it.  You need to have a support group while you’re supporting your own team.  But as a leader, you have the responsibility and privilege to support the growth and development of your employees.  Use that authority wisely.
  • Unreasonable time pressure. Leaders, know what is realistic.  Unsure?    Most employees, at least those who know, like, respect, and trust you, will be truthful in what they can and cannot accomplish.

When I think about my own experience with burnout, it’s amazing to see just how serious the effects were.  As you read the root causes above, did you consider how each of these affects you, your team, or colleagues, and how your response to these root causes bleeds into your personal life? 

For me, my work results didn’t reach my personal high standards.  My attitude put me at a distance from others, and I was quick to react instead of being an active, compassionate listener and leader. While running a global HR department with responsibility for 3,300 employees, I was also obtaining my master’s degree.  The workload, lack of the president’s support, and the constantly changing organizational strategy made success nearly impossible.  And my husband and friends felt my anger, frustration, and discontent, which was unfair to him and those I love.

Don’t take these root causes, or the results of them, lightly.  Every one of us has the responsibility to recognize burnout. But more importantly, we must realize the effects of these root causes.  Each one of these is avoidable or at least manageable. 

How are you identifying, engaging with, and addressing burnout in your organization?  What can you do differently to lead your team through the challenges of modern-day work?  Next time, we’ll unpack a few ways leaders can actively address these root causes, while also caring for themselves.

If you’re seeing, or feeling, burnout, let’s chat.  During a 30-minute discussion, we’ll unpack some of your pain points (like not getting the results from your strategy, failing to meet deadlines, discontent within a team, lack of collaboration between or among departments, productivity challenges) and work on a few things you can do immediately to address the pain.  The investment is just 30 minutes of your time and a commitment of taking the next step.

Let’s chat.


P.S.  Book a Complimentary Strategy Session so we can get you moving in the right direction; click on my Complimentary Strategy Session calendar link here and let’s book a time together so you can get started today!

P.P.S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with demonstrated ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.




[1] Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases (who.int) 2/23/2022