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.
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) is
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.
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.
- Part 1: How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout
- Part 2: An overview of burnout from Preventive stress management in organizations
- Part 3: The seven aspects of burnout
- Part 4: Insights from an experienced leader
- Part 5: Learn to manage energy.
- Part 6: Guard against distress and utilize stress as a tool for growth.
- Part 7: The six areas of job-person mismatch
- Part 8: Build engagement through company culture.
- Part 9: Key points