Managers frequently spend a large part of their time tending to organizational, customer, and employee needs, but fail to provide self-care for themselves. This has caused an enormous increase in the number of leaders who are experiencing burnout, the physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

Phases of Burnout

In the 1980s, researchers Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North broke down the process of how a person experiences burnout. Leaders are particularly vulnerable — while balancing several competing priorities, they frequently don’t notice the gradual onset of symptoms. This combined with additional stress can seriously impact a manager’s ability to lead an empowered and engaged workplace team.

Phase 1: Work imbalance. This stage typically exhibits itself first in engaged employees who have the enthusiasm and drive to readily accept responsibility. These people tend to work obsessively to demonstrate their worth, and their work and life become significantly out of balance.

Phase 2: Attitude and behavioral changes. This phase manifests itself through feelings of aggression and cynicism. Individuals in this phase struggle to tolerate difficulties at work because they view collaborators as adding to their problems. They tend to blame their issues on time and work pressures instead of their own life changes and choices.

Phase 3: Depersonalization. This occurs when a person no longer views himself or herself as valuable and fails to perceive personal needs. They experience a feeling of inner emptiness and feel lost and exhausted.  

We’ll all likely run into at least one of the phases of burnout during our professional career. After all, the demands on leaders are complex and ever-evolving. It’s essential to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to prevent and respond to burnout, so you can continue along a healthy and meaningful career path. Follow these action steps to reduce your likelihood of experiencing burnout:

Engage in Reflection

Evaluate how you feel as you go about your workday by tracking how you spend your time for one week. Take notes on what you’re doing, who you are with, and how you feel using a scale of 1-10, where 0 represents feeling dissatisfied and frustrated, and 10 represents feeling energized or joyful. At the end of the week, assess which tasks or people gave you energy versus those that depleted you. Let this evaluation help you make any changes you need in your work life.

Practice Self-Care

Determine if there are toxic conditions in your work environment that could lead to burnout, such as your workload, a lack of safe and secure relationships, or misaligned values with your organization’s purpose. If there are, consider what you need to change in order to rebalance whatever is feeling overwhelming. There may be other people you need to reach out to for this to happen. Hold yourself accountable and commit to these changes even if they take some time to pan out. These goals will enable you to make progress, and more importantly, prioritize self-care.

Take Advantage of Available Resources

Many companies have confidential counselors on staff or will hire coaches for managers to act as a sounding board. Some organizations also provide wellness programs or remote working opportunities to help you achieve a better work-life balance. Research the options that are available to you at your company and in your local community. If there aren’t any in place, talk to your boss to see if there’s a potential to develop these offerings.

Key Takeaways

  • Burnout can be a serious impediment to the lives of leaders, which is why it’s so important to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to avoid experiencing it.
  • Reflect and practice self-care to maintain a positive work-life balance and prevent burnout.
  • When you have burnout, you can’t do your work effectively — or serve as the leader your employees need to thrive in their jobs. That’s why taking action right away is vital to maximizing your leadership potential.