About Krista Joy Veteto

Aunt. Registered Nurse. Nerd. INFJ. Learner. Empath. Excel fanatic.

Preventing Burnout: a literature survey research series

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The series

Or read it like a paper

Key Points from How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout. I have decided not to publish the conclusion from my paper, instead I am supplying a bulleted list of key points. Each of these key points could be a book or blog post in and of itself. So, think of this as a list of ideas to explore if you want to prevent burnout for yourself or individuals in your team.

All in all, I’d say the most important take-away is this:

Early intervention can prevent burnout


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Key Points for Leaders:

Listening and caring for employees is the most important thing to learn to do as a leader.

  • Learn to interact well with others by listening, communicating and using self-control.
  • Develop the attributes you want from your employees; people learn by seeing others model the behavior
  • Develop coaching skills; Make feedback a natural part of interactions with employees
  • Empower employees and provide clarity via effective communication
  • Provide employees with control wherever possible; employees with decision-making power have lower burnout rates
  • Intervene when employees provide subtle clues that they are being pushed to their limits. Learn more about symptoms in Appendix A (An overview of burnout) and Appendix B (The seven aspects of burnout).
  • Provide goals and hope especially in difficult situations
  • Keep your eyes open for indications that an individual is experiencing distress.

Signs of emotional distress include anxiety, rigidity, poor listening skills, lack of empathy, impatience, and being critical. Early intervention can prevent burnout. Watch for these signs: anxiety, rigidity, poor listening skills, lack of empathy, impatience, and being critical.

More than any other factor, the improvement of communication and the dissemination of information has the greatest impact in creating a culture of engagement

Key Points for Individuals

  • Learn to identify when you’re tipping from (good) stress to distress; Don’t ignore early warning signs that you’re distressed.
  • Identify when you’ve been stressed for too long or too intensely and ask for help.
  • Develop coping mechanisms, skills, and behaviors that help you meet the challenges of your profession
  • Examine the beliefs you have about whether stress is beneficial or harmful.
  • Examine the beliefs you may have that contribute to burnout. For example:

seeing everything as an emergency, overdependence on self, failure to effectively delegate, not seeing self-care as integral to performance, and failing to make lifestyle choices that increase healthiness (Cora, 2010, pp. 21-4).

  • Develop habits that allow you to effectively manage your energy. This requires you to be connected to your needs, values, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Burnout is a process that is often overlooked for a long period of time. Learn to recognize the phases: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.  (Maslach, 1982). Learn more in Appendix A and Appendix B.

It is manifested by symptoms of severe exhaustion and distress at being overwhelmed and over-extended, feelings of ineffectiveness and inadequacy, reduced motivation and commitment, and ‘dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors at work’.

  • Develop very specific routines that ensure you are regularly renewed; block off time to rest
  • Learn to pace yourself
  • Keep an eye on your sleeping and eating habits; these are good indications of how you’re doing
  • Know your risk factors for burnout: under age 20, being an “over achiever” (very high level of motivation to succeed in your careers and high expectations and goals about your own accomplishments), feeling stuck in a job-person mismatch.

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REFERENCES

The series

Build engagement through company culture

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout.

  • The premise for principle one is this: there are no quick-fix solutions. All attempts to prevent burnout need to come from a long-term plan that helps employees become passionate about their work.
  • A key to burnout prevention is employee engagement which can be improved through effective communication and the dissemination of information.

 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Sustaining high-performance without burnout is a complex issue with far-reaching implications. There are no easy, quick solutions. The term burnout, according to Casserley & Megginson, has become colloquial; a faddish term that people use flippantly. This “stimulates the articulation of quick and simple solutions, dubious methods, and inferior inventions by those who want to make fast money in the booming burnout business.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 14) A leader needs to recognize this and realize that burnout prevention is long-term and involves radical changes to a company’s culture. As Smith states, “If you want exceptional performance for your company, you must focus on its culture.” (Smith, 2011, pp. 1) This culture must promote employee engagement. According to Cooper, employee engagement (as contrasted with burnout) isEngagement vs. burnout

a state of high energy (rather than exhaustion), strong involvement (rather than cynicism), and a sense of efficacy (rather than a reduced sense of accomplishment)…Strategies to promote engagement may be just as important for burnout prevention as strategies to reduce the risk of burnout. (1998, pp. 73-4)

This concept is further supported by Maslach & Leiter who say,

Reducing the possibility of burnout is only part of a preventative approach. Even more important is increasing the chances that people engage with their work. Focusing on engagement means focusing on the energy, involvement, and effectiveness that employees bring to a job and develop through their work. (1997, pp. 102)

Cooper suggests increasing engagement by improving the person-job fit. There are six areas that he describes as person-job misfits. They are workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values. These areas are discussed in detail in Appendix C.

 “All attempts to prevent burnout need to come from a long-term plan that helps employees become passionate about their work.”Maslach & Leiter coach that “the outcome is a process.” (1997, pp. 125) This suggests that there is no sure fire, guaranteed way to prevent burnout. “Prevention emphasizes long-term, disciplined efforts in self-reliant and responsible behavior as opposed to the faddish quick fixes that some people appear to seek.” (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. xviiI)

More than any other factor, the improvement of communication and the dissemination of information has the greatest impact in creating a culture of engagement. The basic idea is this: communication empowers employees. Stephen Covey states “Empowerment is the creation of conditions within organizations which results in the ability of individual people to contribute their maximum potential energy…to achieving the mission and strategy of the organization.” (Smith, 2011, pp. 89)

A leader that wants to create a company culture that cultivates engagement needs to realize that they “have a key role in pursuing individual and organizational well-being” (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 151) and to learn how to teach their employees by example that they are “responsible for their health as individuals and for the health of the organization.” (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 151) Additional tactics for the leader include building their coaching skills, improving their ability to facilitate team interaction, creating trust within the team so members do not fear sharing their real opinions, removing barriers, communicating clear expectations, developing systems and watching for the signs of burnout. The signs of burnout can include exhaustion and distress, reduction in performance and productivity, disillusionment and reduced commitment, dysfunctional attitudes, and addictive behaviors (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 25-32).

Finally, the leader can offer the one thing that no one else on the team can: adjusting “their style to provide what the group cannot provide” (Blanchard, Carew & Parisi-Carew, 200, pp. 68) By adjusting their style and filling in the gaps in the team a leader can help improve each team member’s experience of their job. As Maslach & Leiter put it, the idea is to “enhance the relationships of people with their jobs. The ultimate goal is to build something positive, not simply eliminate a negative.” (1997, pp. 103)

Part 5 of this series also includes a few other culture shift ideas such as getting rid of the “survival of the fittest mentality and creating shared energy-generating principles.

REFERENCES

The series

The six areas of job-person mismatch

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout.


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Appendix C: The six areas of job-person mismatch

A conceptual framework for the crises that disrupt the relationships people develop with their work.

“Each area of mismatch has a distinct relationship with burnout and engagement.” (Cooper, 1998, pp. 75) Cooper provides a concise, useful overview of these six areas of mismatch in his book:

    • Work overload occurs when job demands exceed human limits. People have to do too much in too little time with too few resources. When overload is a chronic job condition, not an occasional emergency, there is little opportunity to rest, recover, and restore balance.
    • Lack of control occurs when people have little control over the work they do, either because of rigid policies and tight monitoring or because of chaotic job conditions. Such lack of control prevents people from being able to solve problems, make choices, and have some input into the achievement of the outcomes for which they will be held accountable.
    •  6 Critical Areas: work overload, lack of control, insufficient reward, breakdown of communication, absence of fairness, value conflict.Insufficient reward involves a lack of appropriate rewards for the work people do. This lack of recognition devalues both the work and the workers. Prominent among these rewards are external ones such as salary and benefits, but the loss of internal rewards (such as pride in doing something of importance and doing it well) can also be a critical part of this mismatch.
    • Breakdown of community occurs when people lose a sense of positive connection with others in the workplace. Some jobs isolate people from each other, or make social contact impersonal. However, what is most destructive of community is chronic and unresolved conflict with others on the job. Such conflict produces constant negative feelings of frustration and hostility, and reduces the likelihood of social support.
    • Absence of fairness occurs when there is a lack of a system of justice and fair procedures, which maintain mutual respect in the workplace. Unfairness can occur when there is inequity of workload or pay, or when there is cheating, or when evaluations and promotions are handled inappropriately. If procedures for grievance or dispute resolution do not allow for both parties to have voice, then those will be judged as unfair.

  • Value conflict occurs when there is a mismatch between the requirements of the job and people’s personal principles. In some cases, people might feel constrained by the job to do things that are unethical or not in accord with their own values. For example, they might have to tell a lie or be otherwise deceptive or not forthcoming with the truth. In other instances, people may be caught between conflicting values of the organization, as when there is a discrepancy between the lofty mission statement and actual practice, or when the organization undergoes major changes.

These six types of mismatches are not totally independent, but can be interrelated… The mismatches in these six critical areas of organizational life are not simply a list summarizing research findings from burnout studies. Rather they provide a conceptual framework for the crises that disrupt the relationships people develop with their work. This approach emphasizes the social quality of burnout – it has more to do with the organizational context of the job than simply with the unique characteristics of an individual. (Cooper, 1998, pp. 75-76)

REFERENCES

The series

Not all stress is bad stress

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout.

Stress is a beneficial component of personal development; this is “good” stress. However, too much stress can also lead to distress, which leads to burn out. Signs of distress can be subtle, but early intervention can prevent burnout.


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Learn to guard against distress and utilize stress as a tool to grow. (Literature Survey Principle #2)

“An organization cannot anticipate and avoid every situation in which employees may feel overworked, frustrated, or unappreciated.” (Maslach & Leiter, 1997, pp. 103) Any leader who is working with a high-performance team knows that this statement represents business reality. To quote Quick, et al., “stress is inevitable; distress is not…We contend, as we have over the last 20 years, that stress is an essential agent in an individual’s and an organization’s growth, development, performance and success.” (1997, xvii-xviii) They go on using a bell curve to illustrate that

Stress Bell Curve

performance increases with increasing stress loads up to an optimum point, and then the stress load becomes too great, resulting in depressed performance. The optimum stress load that maximizes performance varies by individual and by tasks, on the basis of several considerations. Individual considerations include susceptibility to stress, fatigue, psychological and cognitive skills, and physical capacity. Task considerations include complexity, difficulty, duration, and intensity. (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 4)

Loehr & Schwarts agree saying, “Stress is not the enemy in [life]… it is the key to growth… Any form of stress that prompts discomfort has the potential to expand our capacity…so long as it is followed by adequate recovery.” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, pp. 11) Similarly, Cora says, “Stress is not new, nor is stress always negative…Acute stress in small doses can be exhilarating.” (Cora, 2010, pp. 11)

This does not mean that all stress is beneficial. There is a difference between beneficial eustress (using the “eu,” Greek root for good) and distress (using “dis,” the Greek root for bad).

Stress becomes a threat to a person’s health and well-being when (a) the stress response is elicited too intensely, for too long a period of time, or too frequently; (b) early warning signs of problems, disorders, and distress are ignored; or (c) the person does not have the skills and repertoire of behaviors to meet the challenges and demands an organization presents…Stress in an opportunity when it challenges people to be all they can be. Stress is an opportunity when it enables people to display the talents, skills, knowledge, and gifts with which they are endowed. Stress is an opportunity when one grows, learns, changes, and develops through the experience. It is a challenge when it leads people to transform themselves, adapting to changing circumstances, and live well. (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 307)

Cora suggests that whether stress becomes beneficial or threatening is the result of an individual’s beliefs. The beliefs that can lead to burnout include: seeing everything as an emergency, overdependence on self, failure to effectively delegate, not seeing self-care as integral to performance, and failing to make lifestyle choices that increase healthiness (Cora, 2010, pp. 21-4).

 “Stress is inevitable; distress is not.” - Preventative Stress Management in Organizations by Quick, Quick, Nelson & HurrellWhile stress is inevitable, leaders need to prevent stress whenever possible, especially stress that extends over a long period of time. Five formal organization areas that can be adjusted as part of preventive stress management are: job redesign, participative management, flexible work schedules, career development, and the design of physical settings (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 164).

Another key part of stress management focuses on “improving relationships at work” (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 187). The topic of conflict and relational conflict was a recurring theme throughout many resources. Another recurring topic was that of intra-personal conflict; conflict within the individual worker. Casserley & Megginson suggest keeping an eye out for four behaviors that are signs that an individual is not in touch with what he or she is thinking or feeling: dysfunctional anger, desensitization, beating up oneself, and using humor to avoid discussions related to burnout (2009, pp. 92-5). They also show two personality traits that often lead to burnout: over identification with work and a desire for recognition. When these behaviors or traits become apparent this is an opportunity for a leader to intervene because these are signs that stress is leading to distress instead of growth. Burnout develops in stages and intervention is possible at several points along the way.

When it comes to utilizing stress to help an employee grow it is incredibly important to be aware of the individuality of each team member. After all, “it is not the situation that is the primary cause of burnout, but the way in which people interpret and handle that situation.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 36)

Job stress is triggered by a wide variety of job demands, including task-specific demands, role demands, interpersonal demands, and physical demands (Quick & Quick, 1984a). These demands may or may not be inherently or necessarily harmful. In line with Lazarus’s perspective, the degree of stress they elicit in a person depends in part on the individual’s cognitive appraisal of that demand. (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 11)

 “Empowered employees—employees who have a sense of control over their job tasks—are resistant to burnout.” - Overcoming Job Burnout by B. PotterA third repeating concept in utilizing stress for growth and development involved an employee’s experience of control. In a chapter dedicated to how managers can prevent burnout, Potters refers to a Harvard Business Research project and a U.N. Labor report, both of which support the fact that with stress levels being equal, those with decision-making power reported “less frustration, more satisfaction and fewer illness.” (Potter, 1998, pp. 266) Potter emphatically states that “Empowered employee–employees who have a sense of control over their job tasks–are resistant to burnout…Employees who feel they can impact their work and can ‘win’ by doing a good job retain their enthusiasm and are more motivated.” (1998, pp. 268) In other words, they are engaged. When employees have some level of control over the stressors in their work, those stressors are more likely to be a catalyst to growth instead of a sentence to burnout.

REFERENCES

The series

Prevent burnout by managing energy

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout. 

This post contains the portion of my research that focuses on what a leader can do to manage energy, but it barely scratches the surface on what I think is the key to burnout prevention: our personal management of energy. Energy management is holistic; it encompasses spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. It is not about being self-centered but about caring for ourselves so we have the energy to be others-centered. In the future I plan to delve into what I think are the three main aspects of energy management:

  • our day-to-day habits
  • whether we’re investing our time/energy into things that energize us (i.e. things that align with our personal, intrinsic values) or drain us.
  • our beliefs about stress (more on this in part 6)

But that is a topic for another day.


How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Learn how to manage energy (Literature Survey Principle #3)

Leaders are stewards of organizational energy… They inspire or demoralize others first by how effectively they manage their own energy and next by how well they mobilize, focus, invest and renew the collective energy of those they lead.  The skillful management of energy, individually and organizationally, makes possible something that we call full engagement. To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest. (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, pp. 5)

First, Learn to manage your own energy

Managing energy and increasing engagement involve daily habits and the health of the whole person (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health). Managing energy requires a person to be connected to their needs, their values, and their strengths and weaknesses.

It is difficult, even impossible (or unethical), for a leader to manage the habits and beliefs that are most influential in an individual’s use of energy. What a leader can do, however, is lead by example: develop good self-awareness, set healthy boundaries around time and energy investment, get adequate sleep, eat regularly, take time to be with their family, create routines that renew, and invest in becoming healthy physically, emotionally and mentally.

The purpose of self-care through preventive stress management is to become more competent in managing stress, to become healthier, and as a result of that competence and health, to be a stronger asset for the groups and organizations in which one participates. (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 301-2)

“The magazine Fast Company asked… successful professionals to talk about how they avoided burnout in the face of highly demanding jobs. Nearly everyone described very specific routines they had instituted to ensure they regularly renewed themselves” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, pp. 33-4) One of these interviewees said specifically that it’s important to pace oneself and “allow time for plenty of breaks” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, pp. 34) Another said that she never works on airplanes, instead she uses that time to do something that helps her recover. Another takes a four-day-weekend once a month with his family and makes sure his calendar is blocked off for those days. Another refuses to use a cell phone or voicemail.

Then, Watch for signs that employees are not managing their energy well (and say something to them)

Watch for signs of emotional health and then choose to coach employees to systematically expand their capacity. Signs of emotional distress include anxiety, rigidity, poor listening skills, lack of empathy, impatience, and being critical.

A person’s sleeping and eating habits are good indications of how an individual is doing. A leader can ensure that employees take breaks, get adequate time between shifts to sleep, and have access to healthy food during their breaks (or champion for wages that allow employees to afford healthy food).

These can be difficult topics to approach with an employee. Check out part 4 for an interview with a leader that practices the art of giving effective feedback (hint: it’s about the trust a leader has developed over time with their employee and the way the feedback is approached).

Identify conditions in the organization that are energy-sucks and champion change.

For example, Morgan McCall says that

believ[ing] that the fittest will survive without much nurturing, organizations not only overlook people [with] the potential to develop but also frequently and unintentionally derail the talented people they have identified as high flyers by rewarding them for the flaws, teaching them to behave in ineffective ways, reinforcing narrow perspectives and skills and inflating their egos. (Casserley & Megginson, 1998, pp. 64-5)

Companies can also help employees manage and regenerate energy by creating “energy generating principles and values [that] are stated clearly, understood and shared by every employee” (Smith, 2011, pp. 3).

“Tackling burnout means changing the way organizations are structured and led. Implicitly it means reducing workloads and helping employees find greater work/life balance.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 63-4)

This looks different in every organization. This may represent removing needless bureaucracy, creating stronger lines of communication between departments, or even allowing employees to feel like they have more control over their schedule. Other ideas can be found in this interview. The possibilities are endless.

" Energy, not time is the fundamental currency of high performance.” - Loehr & Schwartz

REFERENCES

The series

Preventing burnout: Insights from an experienced leader

A requirement for my capstone research project on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout required an interview. The interview focused on how this specific leader increases employee engagement, manages the stress load of his team and models healthy behaviors and attitudes.


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

In the interview, it quickly became apparent that the leader had developed a division with a culture that built employee engagement. This leader’s work area was within hearing distance of his direct reports and he had intentionally created a department with very little hierarchy so that he could keep a pulse on how individuals in his group were doing. He continually returned to the point that listening was the best thing he does to know how his employees are doing. Whether it’s listening when they come to him for help, intervening when a potential issue comes across his desk, or listening to his employees interacting with the clients they serve. He is attuned to their normal ways of interacting and to subtle clues that the employee has been pushed to their limit. He said that his technique would probably not be scalable with a large group, but that if he had a larger team to manage he would focus on teaching his direct reports how to listen to their employees. He believes that organic listening is a skill that can be taught.

Organic listening is a skill that can be taught.

It also was apparent that he takes coaching his employees very seriously. By seriously I mean that he sees it as intrinsically part of leadership. However, he doesn’t coach his employees in a serious way. He is intentional about building comradery and a team spirit and keeping laughter part of the team interactions. He said that when he suggests a behavioral change to an employee it is normally handled in a light-hearted way. He also makes it clear that he is not above criticism and is open to feedback from his employees.

When he hires he spends a lot of time considering applicants before hiring them looking not only for competence, but more importantly the ability to relate well with others. He watches for clues about their temperament preferring to hire people who are open to feedback and who are somewhat introspective. He looks for people that may need coaching but who will grow as a result of the investment.

Hire people who are open to feedback and who are somewhat introspective

As far as how he manages the pressure his employees’ experience, he stated multiple times that he works alongside his employees when he asks for extraordinary performance. That means being accessible even in the middle of the night or putting aside his to do items for the day if a situation needs his help. He wants his team to know that they (both the leader and the employee) are a part of the team.

“Stress and anxiety are often caused by lack of clarity”He says that stress and anxiety are often caused by lack of clarity, so he comes alongside his employees and helps them break large projects down into doable segments. This helps employees feel more in control of what they are doing. He has also set up his department so that his employees have some level of control over what they are doing. This doesn’t mean he is removed, but simply that he allows them to handle things and watches for signs that he needs to get involved. He keeps a close eye on areas that will take a toll and that have to be managed. He says that only a leader can mediate push back and he takes that role seriously. He takes the role of team leader seriously because it’s important. He says that there are things that only the leader can do and one of the biggest things is taking care of the team.

Give employees some level of control over what they are doing.

He talks to his employees about the end goal, both for the individual employee’s development and for projects that will bring high-stress levels. He helps his employees see what is beyond the stressful situation. He sees hope as something that is key in keeping people from burnout. He said that he explains that there is a light at the end of a tunnel when employees are under extraordinary projects.

There is a light at the end of a tunnel

I asked him how he developed these perspectives and he said that when he first started managing he read books on leadership, communication, and negotiation. Over time these concepts have become an intrinsic part of who he is and how he responds. From my observations, it seems that his ability to understand what makes people tick and how to effectively work with others is probably part of his strengths/gifting make-up. But he has worked to hone those skills and takes pleasure in teaching others to do the same. He values people. He says that “people are everything, especially in small organizations.” That is why he takes hiring as seriously as he does and why he coaches employees in the way they interact with others. He tells his employees that learning to interact well with others by listening, communicating and using self-control are what will set them apart and allow them to grow into leaders themselves. He encourages them to interact face-to-face if possible instead of allowing emails to get out-of-hand. He sees email communication as something that can waste time and create issues where there weren’t any. By encouraging his team to communicate face-to-face this lowers the amount of time wasted on what can become a stressful activity.

Having seen this leader in action, I found this interview to be incredibly encouraging and inspiring. Hearing his insights on this subject supported my previous observations about his tremendous skills as a leader. It was encouraging to see that it’s been something that he worked to learn and then implement with the people on his team. He cares about people and encourages them when he sees something good. And it seems that he is always watching for people to do something good.

Before the interview, I felt overwhelmed by what I had found in the research. It seemed that preventing burnout was an impossible task for any individual. However, this leader showed that listening and caring for employees is the most important thing to learn to do as a leader. The fact that he does this shows up in the level of respect and trust his employees have for him. He models good interpersonal skills and coaches his employees to do the same. He recommends books for them to read. He doesn’t expect perfection. He knows that people will make mistakes and he has grace for that.

This leader doesn’t necessarily see himself as an example to others in the area of leadership – probably because he has a humble attitude about his skills and abilities. But he is most definitely a model to me of what I want to be as a leader.


Background and Preparation

History and Background

The person interviewed holds an executive-level position in a San Diego company. This person manages multiple departments that have significant budgetary constraints and are tasked with multiple, high-stakes projects. This person has successfully led high-productivity teams without team member burnout. It is this experience and expertise that makes this person the ideal interviewee for this research study. The researcher has had the opportunity to interact with this person’s employees and they are each committed to their work and respect the leadership of this person. The researcher admires this leader and has been impressed with stories of how this person has empowered employees, helped work through interpersonal or interdepartmental conflict, and how this person has successfully implemented new ways of handling projects to increase speed and effectiveness.

Questions to be asked

Objective One: Identify how this leader builds engagement and impacts company culture.
  • How do you help your employees contribute their maximum energy/potential?
  • How do you ensure you communicate clearly with your employees?
  • Your employees seem to be informed on what is going on in the organization. How do you disseminate organizational information?
  • How do you keep a pulse on how your employees are doing?
  • How do you identify potential issues? What do you do when you identify impending problems?
  • Are there any specific things you do to help prevent your team members from burnout?
Objective Two: Determine how this leader guards against team member distress and uses stress as a tool to help employees grow.
  • How do you monitor the level of stress each of your employees is experiencing?
  • Do you evaluate the level of stress your employees are experiencing with their individual abilities to handle it?
  • Your team seems to be heavily involved in multiple, stressful projects at any given time. How do you make sure this stress doesn’t cause distress?
  • You seem to get involved when one of your employees (or when a project) gets stuck, but you empower your employees to work relatively independently. How do you determine where the control boundaries are set?
  • Based on your experiences and observations, what makes the difference between a person or situation that causes growth verses one that burns out?
Objective Three: Ascertain how the leader helps employees manage energy.
  • How do you manage your team’s combinations of strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you manage and communicate about your own personal weaknesses and strengths?
  • If your employee is demonstrating self-destructive habits, like overworking or not taking care of self, what do you do/say?
  • Your employees work a lot of hours and their work hours vary from week-to-week. How do you manage this?
  • Do you intentionally model specific behaviors or attitudes for your staff?

The series

The seven aspects of burnout

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout.


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Appendix B: The seven aspects of burnout

Since the 1980s there has been a massive explosion in social scientific research on the subject [of burnout]. Schaufeli and Enzman estimated that over 50 research dissertations had appeared each year since the mid-80s and over 300 studies per year with the word ‘burnout’ in the title since the end of that decade. This enormous amount of research has resulted in some common ground about the conceptualization of burnout. The following generally agreed:

  • Burnout is a negative ‘psychological condition’ that develops over a long period of time among individuals who do not manifest behaviors indicative of mental illness.
  • It is often ‘unnoticed for a long time by the individual involved.’
  •  “A paradox exists: the most valuable and successful professionals are those who, for that very reason, run the largest risk of burning out.”It is primarily a work-related phenomenon. This is a very important distinction without which it would be impossible to differentiate burnout from other psychological constructs such as stress, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression… Hence burnout is often referred to as job burnout or employee burnout.
  • Burnout occurs more often among younger employees during the earlier states of their careers than older employees…Schaufeli and Enzman write that, ‘Among younger employees, burnout is observed more often than among those aged over 30 or 40 years…
  • Burnout occurs among those that have a very high level of motivation to succeed in their careers and high expectations and goals about their own accomplishments…Freudenberger described burnout as an ‘over-achiever syndrome’… ‘A paradox exists: the most valuable and successful professionals are those who, for that very reason, run the largest risk of burning out.’
  • Burnout is a ‘multi-dimensional syndrome’. It is manifested by symptoms of severe exhaustion and distress at being overwhelmed and over-extended, feelings of ineffectiveness and inadequacy, reduced motivation and commitment, and ‘dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors at work’.
  • Burnout appears to be a universal and pervasive phenomenon which is not strongly culturally dependent and whose form is similar across national, cultural, and occupational boundaries. (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 14-5)

REFERENCES

The series

An Overview of Burnout

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout.


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Appendix A: An overview of burnout from Preventive Stress Management in Organizations:

            Burnout, a concept dating to the late 1970s (Maslach, 1978), is a chronic pattern of negative affective responses that can result in reduced job satisfaction, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, or increased turnover (Peters, Youngblood, & Greer, 1997).  “A paradox exists: the most valuable and successful professionals are those who, for that very reason, run the largest risk of burning out.”Burnout tends to occur in individuals in professions characterized by a high degree of personal investment in work, high-performance expectations, and emotionally demanding interpersonal situations (Maslach, 1982; Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Burnout is most frequently described as found among members of the helping professions, including doctors, nurses, therapists of various disciplines, police officers, teachers, and social workers (Burke & Richardsen, 1996).

Individuals with a strong commitment to work often derive much of their self-image and sense of worth from their occupation. This limits the amount of investment in recreational and family activities. When difficulties arise at work or there are limited rewards for increasing labor, burnout-prone individuals begin to invest even more time at work and further neglect outside supports.

 The 3 phases of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, reduced personal accomplishment

Maslach (1982) described burnout as a process that typically proceeds through three phases: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion reflects a depletion of emotional resources and inability to give psychologically. Depersonalization, probably a coping mechanism, includes negative, cynical attitudes about the recipients of one’s services. Finally, reduced personal accomplishment refers to decreased job satisfaction and a reduced sense of competence.

Burke and Richardsen (1996) noted that burnout is a process and that it is possible to intervene at any of several points in the process to reduce burnout and its adverse consequences. (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 71)

 Early intervention can prevent burnout. Watch for these signs: anxiety, rigidity, poor listening skills, lack of empathy, impatience, and being critical.

REFERENCES

The series

How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

While completing my Bachelor’s of Science in Organizational Leadership I was required to produce a capstone research project. The subject I selected was How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout. This material was relevant when I researched it in 2011; It is even more relevant now as I enter the nursing profession six years later.

One in every five high-performing employees will experience full-blown symptoms of burnout in the first ten years of their career. (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 188).

I’ve decided to experiment with how to present this information in a blog format and have chosen to split it into smaller bite-size chunks. This is the first post in a 9-post series. (Feedback is appreciated on the format because I have several other research papers I would love to share in the future.) 


 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this project is to determine what leadership traits and behaviors can empower a leader to maintain a high-productivity team without team member burnout. The goal is to identify three principles that are consistently recommended. Then the study will continue by interviewing a leader that has been successful in this particular area to discover how these theories are applied in real-life business scenarios.

This paper assumes that the likelihood of team member burnout can be reduced, or even prevented, based on leadership decisions and behaviors.

The amount of material available on the subject of building high-performance teams, managing stress and preventing burnout is extensive. Research by Casserley & Megginson has found that there is a correlation between burnout and “those who are in the early stages of their careers, are highly achievement-focused and restlessly pursue success in their careers–in most organizations such people are regarded as high flyers.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 188) This study will focus on how leaders can help people that are naturally high performers –those that invest large amounts of energy, time and focus into their jobs–continue to perform optimally without burning out. It will not delve into the subject of building high-performance teams or motivating employees to become high performers.

 “One in every five high-performing employees will experience full-blown symptoms of burnout in the first ten years of their career.” - Casserley & Megginson One in every five high-performing employees will experience full-blown symptoms of burnout in the first ten years of their career. This statistic does not cover the percentage of high achievers that are experiencing partial burnout (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 188). Casserley & Megginson state in their research, “All of the high flyers currently experiencing burnout or who had experienced burnout previously, attributed their symptoms to work, rather than home life.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 24) The researcher agrees with Casserley & Megginson in their “firm belief that while the organization creates the conditions for burnout to occur, it is the individual – through his or her own choices – who determines whether they burnout or not.” (2009, pp. 43) There are numerous resources to help individuals deal with burnout. These principles will not be covered in this study. Instead, this study seeks to find ways that a leader can intervene and help his/her employee(s) avoid burnout.

Furthermore, this study will not delve into the business implications of burnout, although there is much to be said about the financial implications. This study will assume that “…organizational stressors can create substantial ill health among employees and that distressed employees can create considerable organizational dysfunction.” (Quick, Quick, Nelson, & Hurrell, Jr., 1997, pp. 150).

The very definition and description of burnout is complex. Most books encompass at least one chapter in this endeavor. Appendix A, An overview of burnout from Preventive stress management in organizations, and Appendix B, The Seven Aspects of Burnout, are a good place to start

Survey Of Literature

Common themes were identified through a survey of literature. These themes were grouped into three principles that leaders can to utilize to mitigate the risk of burnout with high performers. (Future posts will include a literature survey for each principle.)

Principle One: Build engagement through company culture.

Principle Two: Guard against distress and utilize stress as a tool for growth.

Principle Three: Learn to manage energy.

 3 Principles to prevent burnout: build engagement through company culture, guard against distress and utilize stress as a tool for growth, learn how to manage energy.

Interview

The interview focuses on how a specific leader increases employee engagement, manages the stress load of his team and models healthy behaviors and attitudes.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Conclusion

I have chosen to exclude the conclusions from my paper. Burnout prevention is a complex topic and I want to avoid trite, platitudes that suggest a one-size-fits all solution. However, I will recap some key points in the final post for this series.

REFERENCES

Blanchard, K., Carew, D., & Parisi-Carew, E. (2000). The one minute manager builds high performing teams (2nd ed.). New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Casserley, T., & Megginson, D. (2009). Learning from burnout: Developing sustainable leaders and avoiding career derailment. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Cooper, C. L. (1998). Theories of organizational stress. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.

Cora, G. (2010). ExecutiveHealth.com’s leading under pressure: Strategies to avoid burnout, increase energy, and improve your well-being. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.

Loehr, J., & Schwartz, T. (2003). The power of full engagement: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. New York, NY: Free Press Paperbacks.

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (1997). The truth about burnout: How organizations cause personal stress and what to do about it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Potter, B. (1998). Overcoming job burnout: How to renew enthusiasm for work (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Ronin Publishing, Inc.

Quick, J. C., Quick, J. D., Nelson, D. L., & Hurrell, Jr., J. J. (1997). Preventive stress management in organizations. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Smith, L. (2011). Engage, commit, grow! How to create and sustain a culture of high performance: A Guide for CEO’s and management teams with courage to pursue extraordinary success. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press, Inc.

Table of Contents

The series