Signs of Burnout at Work

Your ability to detect signs of burnout at work and intervene may be crucial in understanding your own situation or in providing needed assistance to key leaders before their situation deteriorates further. You probably already have some experience with this.

The last several years pushed the challenges of burnout to the forefront. In my opinion, having supported leaders dealing with overload and burnout for many years, it's dire. You can read the definition of burnout here.

As an executive, you pay attention to charts, trends and profit and loss statements or you monitor usage and response and lives affected. All this data gives you valuable information that you act on with resolve.

Signs of Burnout at Work

Similarly, there are five "trends," or signs that may point to a deteriorating personal situation. If you observe this change in behaviour and performance, start asking questions.

Serious changes may be happening that can impact your life, work and leadership in significant ways. 

Five Signs of Burnout at Work

1 A loss of energy - You may sense a loss of physical, emotional or spiritual energy. The get up and go that normally characterizes you just isn't there. You find yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually tired. And the sense of physical tiredness goes beyond just having a hard days work. It's something more pervasive. One day off or a holiday absolutely does not bring that sense of re-invigoration. You are running on empty.

2 A loss of involvement - You start to withdraw from things you would normally be involved in. Signs of burnout at work may include withdrawing from people or from certain work situations in favor of being alone. There is almost an expressed indifference to projects, programs and causes that normally would engage your interests and passions. You may even find yourself becoming cynical, irritated or seeing people as interruptions when it's not the case at all. When it comes right down to it, you feel like you are going through the motions of leadership, but somehow disconnected from it.

3 A loss of effectiveness - Your ability to perform as effectively as you once did is compromised. Performance suffers. The quality of work goes down. You're not a sharp as you normally are. Decision-making isn't as crisp and decisive. Communications are unclear and quality leadership is lacking. Others around you may be increasingly frustrated by your behaviors. All these burnout symptoms are beginning to affect them. It's not that you lack these skills but that you seem unable to summon them when you need them. 

On the flip side of this, even if you did recognize the signs of burnout at work, you may be the type of person who would just "push through." Nothing is going to remain undone with excellence on your watch. Performance "will not" suffer. This too is equally as perilous. You might be in serious trouble, and in your tunnel vision, not acknowledge what's going on until you collapse from it.

4 A loss of health and a sense of well-being - What does job burnout feel like? Stress weakens the immune system and our ability to fight off disease or minor health problems. You may have a sense of not just feeling as well as you normally do. That general feeling of malaise hangs on. You may experience any number of things happening to your body which don't seem to tie together and don't seem to have an explanation. Remember the effects of adrenaline: poor sleeping, aches and pains, stomach problems, unable to relax, and a host of others. You just don't feel as well as you know you should be feeling.

5 A loss of a sense of control - Where you once felt you had some control in what was happening, your confidence has waned, or maybe even plummeted. Circumstances don't seem great. You are being tasked with achieving certain results, but you don't have all the levers in your hands to make it happen. Another individual (or several) control what you need to "do your job" well. Demands are being made of you that you see as unreasonable. Showing up each day to face it is a mountain to climb. 

While I can hardly capture the physical, emotional and social totality of what people are feeling, you can personally reflect a little more on what burnout feels like here. In one sense it will sound simple .. it feels like too much and it feels like not enough. Take some time to think about this. Ask yourself the questions - What am I experiencing that is too much? What am I experiencing that is too little?  

Perhaps it will allow you to more easily describe your own situation and feelings.

We Need to Mention Depression

Depression is something quite different and really serious. If that's the kind of help you think you might need, this page will be helpful.  

"Gary’s calm approach and practical experience quickly won me over.  He was able to help me think outside the box and address the issues that were present for me at work.  The great thing is that the help I received from Gary also spilled over into my personal life."  Manager

Falling Behind or Pushing Through?

Signs of burnout at work show up in different ways for different leaders and professionals.

  • Some push through each day never willing to let their responsibilities or professionalism falter. 
  • Others are more or less immobilized by it. 
  • Most are unhappy, frustrated, and feel trapped with the lack of control over their own circumstances.
  • And I've found that far too many leaders, (particularly Christian,) feel shame that they failed and weren't able to "do it all."
  • Others are stalled by other ways of thinking that aren't helping them. Here are 10 reasons most leaders fail to take timely action to prevent overload and burnout. 
Lighthouse warning signal

These "signals" are telling you something.

Just like a lighthouse, they are giving you the signal to pay attention to what's happening.

Make needed adjustments now. Work and lead with greater satisfaction and recovered effectiveness. 

“You'll also be happy to know that I scheduled some time off/away. I know we aren't talking this Monday but I just wanted to give you an update since it was an emotionally exhausting week.  I do feel like I took control faster than I have in the past. Thanks Gary” CEO

One on One Executive Coaching

Take advantage of the benefits of executive coaching. Avoid burnout altogether. And, if you are endeavoring to lead while carrying this heavy load, contact me. I know how to provide the support you need.

Over many years I have coached leaders and executives dealing with overload or burnout. If you are experiencing any combination of these signs of burnout, an initial conversation will determine if and how I might assist you or point you to additional help.

Call our office at 705.687.2711 or send me a message here.

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