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You want your team to perform at a high level by not burning out? During my time as a manager in an international logistics group, I have also been facing this challenge time and again. Especially due to the fact that I myself was on the edge of a mental and physical breakdown even twice during my career in logistics.
However, before I turn to this question, it should be mentioned at the outset that during my 25 years in logistics there was actually no serious discussion with me in which my boss addressed my general state of health or workload in order to find solutions together and bring about an improvement.
It was simply not part of the work culture to discuss personal health and well-being. This may be due to the logistics industry itself, which is quite well known for its rather uncouth way of working and to the project environment in which I worked for the most part, characterized by constant deadline pressure that generally leaves little time for discussions about “soft facts”.
In my first years as a manager, I too only had rudimentary and rather half-hearted discussions with my employees about their well-beings – knowing full well that the one or the other of them were also at the limits of their capabilities. It wasn’t until the end of my corporate career that I better understood the importance of burnout prevention and adjusted my management style accordingly. In retrospect, I should have taken this topic much more seriously from the start. In the end, I can consider myself lucky never to have had a burnout case in my teams.
But what can managers do to prevent employee burnout while ensuring that the team performs at a high level? From my perspective, there are 10 points to consider:
Make yourself proactively familiar with burnout prevention
Familiarize yourself with the topic of burnout and educate yourself accordingly how to prevent it. Read up on the topic sufficiently and attend information events or workshops for supervisors, for instance.
Set a good example
Be mindful of your own needs and regularly review your own work behavior. Do not be afraid to seek professional support yourself if you are overburdened.
Create a culture of appreciation and a resilient work environment
This includes reasonable working hours, promotions, praise, and openness in interactions. All of these help to improve job satisfaction, engagement and employee health. Everyone in the team should always have the opportunity to talk about problems and express constructive criticism. This should not snub you, but rather encourage you to allow change. Keep in mind that recent surveys have shown that the main reason these days for quitting a job is lack of recognition by superiors.
Encourage team spirit and celebrate successes – as well as failures
Provide an atmosphere of mutual respect and fairness where collaboration and sharing of opinions and information takes place. This also includes cultivating common occasions and rituals. In this context you might also have a look at my blog post “The fish – a leadership instrument”.
Celebrate successes in the team (e.g. after a completed project) to maintain team morale. Failures should also be reflected on in a similar way, openly and without blame, because ultimately the team can only learn from them and continue to develop as a unit.
Let go and give space
Give your employees sufficient room to maneuver and decision-making authority by trusting them and delegating tasks wherever possible. The trick is to find a good balance between control and letting go, whereby employees should always be able to rely on you to be there for them when support is needed and, for example, to accompany them to difficult meetings if desired.
Challenge and foster
Provide variety – e. g., through job rotation – and new challenges to avoid monotony at the workplace and to create a meaningful job for the individual. After all, it is important to avoid not only burnouts, but also boreouts in the team, since both lead to similar symptoms and ultimately to a significant drop in performance and possibly long-term absence of employees.
In this context, “foster” also means enabling and encouraging your employees to take on new tasks and providing appropriate training, if needed.
Integrate questions about personal well-being into employee appraisals
Regular conversations with your employees should not only serve to discuss individual performance. Instead, it is also important to schedule enough time to give differentiated feedback and sensitively address perceived conspicuities or difficulties. On the other hand, you might also use this opportunity to obtain specific feedback from your employees, for example by asking which value should be strengthened in the collaboration and aligning yourself accordingly.
Watch out for signs of overburdening of individuals and react
As a manager you should ask yourself latest when overtime becomes the rule for certain employees, whether existing resources are still correctly distributed and what you can change yourself to reduce time pressure and overload for individuals in the team. Offer your support to employees at risk of burnout and take measures to relieve them. However, you should also make it clear from the beginning that you, as a manager, are particularly concerned about work performance and the health situation.
Acquire appropriate discussion techniques
In order to be able to conduct problematic conversations professionally, it is also necessary to empathize with your employees, to summarize facts and to listen carefully. If you see weaknesses in this area, do not hesitate to take appropriate training.
Regularly sensitize yourself with the following self-reflection questions
- Which employees in my team are potentially at risk of burnout and what steps am I taking promptly to address this issue?
- Which staff members would have long deserved a thank you from me for their efforts?
- How could I further promote a culture of appreciation and mutual respect in my team?
The opinion is often expressed in coaching articles that especially those who are new to the team, i.e. at the beginning of the learning curve, are at risk of burnout, while the potential boreout cases occur at the end of the curve, where one has reached a certain comfort zone. In my opinion, the alleged “sweet spot” in between is not so “sweet” at all especially for many top performers in the company, because they are often entrusted with more and more tasks (after all, their managers know that they “deliver”) until they too literally “go to their knees“.
Certainly, genetic predisposition as well as the degree of resilience gained over the years also play a role. And of course, the job itself. For example, employees who have a lot of contact with other people (e.g. in sales or customer service) are particularly at risk of burnout. Imprinting can also contribute to being susceptible to burnout. For example, through manifested beliefs such as “Making mistakes is always bad!” or “You always have to give at least 100%!”, which were adopted by parents or other authorities in early childhood and now act as Inner Drivers.
In summary, it can certainly be stated that the topic of “burnout prevention” is multi-faceted and represents an ever-growing challenge for managers. Especially these days, where the ongoing trend of working from home increasingly limits direct personal contact.
Finally, I would like to plead for taking the topic of “burnout” so seriously that it becomes a firm part of your agenda in the context of team development. I would be happy to support you on this way. Also, if you would like to get help for yourself in critical situations. Feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com or use the contact form on my homepage.
If you are also interested in getting to know your Inner Drivers better, you are welcome to get a self-test (with automatic analysis function) free of charge from me via the above-mentioned contact options.
Best regards and wishing you healthy success on your further career path!