In our last blog, we spoke about spotting the signs of burnout before it’s too late. Now, we’re looking into how to support a team member when you become aware that they’re already struggling with burnout.
Understand the root cause
Before taking action, it’s important to identify why your team member is burned out and exhausted. There are many potential factors including a heavy workload, role ambiguity, not feeling supported by their line manager and/or unfair treatment in the workplace.
It’s possible that personal issues, such as money problems or family conflict, are playing a role in your team member’s burnout. Whatever the cause of burnout may be, having honest conversations is essential. This will not only help you figure out what your team member needs, but it will also show that you’ve noticed they’re not themselves and you’re willing to support them.
Here are a few tips to help you find the cause.
Have 1-2-1 conversations
1-2-1 conversations are a great chance for your team members to open up to you, without the pressure of the wider team. Each member of the team has an angle on the group dynamics that you, as the manager, might not see. Meet face to face, whether that’s in-person or on a video call, you need to see each other.
It’s important to remember that people, may find it difficult to talk about problems they’re having on the job. They might be concerned with the team’s opinion of them or afraid of retaliation. If your team member appears reluctant to open up, try asking empathetic questions such as “what are you dealing with right now?” or “which areas of your role are most challenging for you currently?”
Avoid making assumptions
It’s easy to approach team members with the assumption that you already know what the problem is. Do your best to avoid doing that. Instead of trying to lead the topic in a certain way, you should provide your team members with a safe space to clarify what is truly happening.
It’s normal if a team member doesn’t always feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you. Let them know you’re there for them anytime they’re ready to talk, but don’t pressure them if they’re not ready.
Demonstrate compassion and empathy
Compassion and empathy are helpful in the workplace, particularly when addressing problems like burnout. As a group, you’ll need to work through your challenges with your colleagues in order to be successful. This is quite natural; just try to keep an open mind and an empathic perspective. Together, you’ll be able to weather the storm more easily. Examples of compassionate and empathetic behaviour are provided below.
Consider what’s best for the team
If you want to improve your capacity for empathy, try asking yourself, “What’s best for the team?” It’s possible that the response will change depending on who you ask. Some team members may benefit most from taking time off to relax and recharge on a break or personal leave. Others may need to reorganise their workload or have tasks removed from their list.
For some, they might decide that the role isn’t right for them so the best solution is to leave their job if they’re not thriving in it, and they can’t see how to fix that. Respecting and showing your support for their decision to leave is essential.
Don’t take it personally
It’s easy to blame yourself for the team member’s burnout, but if you’re reading this blog, you care enough about your team to want to understand and do the best you can. Despite your best efforts, burnout is a real possibility due to a number of causes. Make sure you’re also exercising empathy and compassion for yourself as you work through tricky situations with your team.
Take care of your own wellbeing
While you may feel guilty, prioritising your own mental and physical health will make helping your team member easier. Not only will you be setting a positive example for the rest of the team to look after themselves, but you can also share ideas with your team about self-care and lifestyle changes. You can even find ways to tackle self-care as a team by taking more breaks, having outside walking meetings together, or eating lunch away from your desks.
Respect boundaries and holidays
When you send an email at 10 pm, you’re setting a precedent for which work hours are appropriate. Your team will likely feel pressured to reply, even if you don’t want them to. For this reason, it’s important to take a step back and consider whether your own actions are in line with the expectations you’ve set for the team. The next time you’re inclined to send that little note at midnight, hold off, especially if it can hold off until the next day. Or just schedule the email to send the following morning!
Take your sick days
Team members may feel uncomfortable requesting time off if their manager never takes holidays or even sick days. Therefore, make use of your time off, whether it’s for a doctor’s appointment or a short break, for the sake of both your health and theirs. Lead by example and let them know they can and should take breaks.
We’ll be talking more about quiet quitting and burnout in our next blog but, if you don’t want to wait until then, feel free to get in touch and we can talk about it together.