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Why Burnout Happens (And What You Can Do About It)

Jake Gibbs | September 4, 2015 

Forest fires only happen when conditions are just right. In times of drought and intense heat, all it takes is one loose cigarette, one lightning strike, or one trigger to ignite a flame that destroys all in its path.

Many if not all of us at some point realize that our job conditions begin to mimic those of a forest before the fire starts. We discover our jobs to be dry, uncomfortable places where we go to make money but not thrive or enjoy. Why do you think there is so much turnover among employees nowadays, with talent bouncing around from company to company every few years or so?

Those facing burnout in their jobs lose passion, feign interest, perform well enough to avoid termination, and eventually spend more time on job sites and updating their resume than they do working.

To avoid job burnout, take a personal inventory of what is causing your burnout and then take action to improve those conditions.

To avoid job burnout, take a personal inventory of what is causing your burnout and then take action to improve those conditions. Here are some of the most common problems you may be facing in your job and what you can do about them.

1. Management Style

Having a manager that you don’t like or don’t agree with can begin to grate on you over time. Managers who are scatterbrained, overbearing, or who micromanage cause employees to feel pressure, frustration, and confusion in their roles.

While you can’t change your manager’s personality, often times you can start an open dialogue about how you prefer to work and how you and your manager can work more effectively together. Your manager may be too stubborn to adapt to working with you more effectively, preferring his or her own methods over changing. However, many times this honest talk will open your manager’s eyes to behaviors that he/she wasn’t aware of and can easily improve, leading to a healthier, more enjoyable manager-employee relationship.

2. Working Too Much

The days of 40 hours seem to be fading into the past. For most of us nowadays, with the pressure to perform in our jobs, we work over 40 hours in the office. Worse, we stay connected to email like a ball and chain, answering emails at oddball hours. Careers are marathons, not sprints, so it is important to establish balance or you’ll eventually slow your pace and move on.

If you’re feeling overworked, try a few things. First, ask yourself if all the hours you are putting in are really necessary. Second, find ways to be more efficient to do the same work in less time. Third, discuss with your manager how you can succeed in your role without too many extra hours. Lastly, take vacations and find hobbies that relieve stress and help you unwind.

In the end, work is work and is hard by its nature, but don’t drive yourself to the ground.

3. Pressure to Perform

We all have expectations and quotas of some sort in our jobs. While they push us to do better, they often push us towards stress, frustration, and burnout.

If your job pressure is pushing you to the brink, consider a few things. First, is the pressure from external sources (boss, shareholders, etc) or is it self-imposed? If it is external, try managing expectations with your manager to make sure the goals are challenging but not overbearing. If the pressure is internal, relax! It’s healthy to strive for improvement, but don’t raise the bar so high that you can’t clear it.

4. Lack of Challenge or Skill Growth

When you start any job, nearly everything is challenging as you battle the learning curve. Over time, you become better and better at what you do, leading to better performance and efficiency. Unfortunately, it often leads to boredom after you master tasks, processes, and your job as a whole.

To avoid the disengagement caused by job boredom, always strive to challenge yourself in something in your job. Whether it is learning new software, gaining new skillsets, volunteering for a new project, or cross-training in another complimentary job role, there is always a way to create your own challenges. But since they rarely come to you, you have to take the initiative.

5. Lack of Incentives or Promotion

You may find yourself in a cul-de-sac job, or one where it’s a nice place to live but it doesn’t go anywhere. If you find your salary and job role have capped out, you have a few options.

First, have an open discussion with your manager about your future with the company and what your growth options are and how you can continue to grow and contribute. This will lead towards job role and salary discussions. If you address it from a “how can I contribute more?” your manager will feel more inclined to want to increase your salary and other incentives.

You may end up taking on an additional job role, transitioning laterally into a new job role in the same company, or best yet, you may get a salary increase or promotion as your manager recognizes your value and contributions.

6. Lack of Autonomy

Do you feel like you have little say in how you do your job or what direction to take it? If you feel like you’re simply fulfilling orders instead of creating the menu, consider discussing with your manager how you can have more autonomy in your job.

Remember that with greater autonomy comes greater accountability and pressure to perform, but also comes far greater job satisfaction. Try and find a good balance of autonomy where you are challenged and excited, but not overly burdened with expectations, either.

7. Lack of Purpose

Let’s face it: most of us probably work for companies that have products or services that we are not 100% passionate about. As exciting as toilet paper, auto insurance, magazines, or whatever else your company provides are, they most likely don’t fulfil your personal ambitions to make a difference in the world.

If you feel like you need more purpose and meaning in your job, consider a few options. First, try and influence your company to get involved with charities or non-profits. Volunteer to contribute or lead such efforts. Second, if your company won’t or can’t get involved in such things, seek to find hobbies or service efforts in your community, church, or other organization to make a difference in the world. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember: if you feel like conditions in your job are feeling like a forest drying out before a spark ignites it into a blaze, take measures to improve conditions. If after striving to improve conditions you find it not possible, it is best to transition to a new job role in your company or to change companies. Life is too short to spend it burnt out.

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Jake Gibbs

Jake Gibbs | Design Specialist

Jake Gibbs is a Design Specialist at ListEngage and an expert at designing and building elegant, cross-platform compatible, mobile responsive emails and landing pages on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. From brainstorming and ideation to polishing the final product, he loves the creative process. Jake has worked with more than 60 clients since joining ListEngage in 2014. Some of his projects have included L’Oreal, Vanguard, Carhartt, Harvard Business School, RCI/Wyndham, Huggies, and Planet Fitness.