Burned Out to Fired Up: 4 Steps to Fight Employee Burnout

A graphic showing stress levels from burned out to fired up

Employees are not just tired.

They are depleted. According to Gallup, 74% of employees have experienced burnout at least sometimes on the job. The reasons are varied, but often quite common: increased workloads, working longer hours, taking little or no time off, poor leadership, and understaffed departments have turned burnout into a flaming inferno of an issue for organizations.

While focusing on burnout became vital over the course of Covid-19, the importance has been emphasized by the “Great Resignation” as scores of employees leave for new jobs in a hot talent market. However, there are several things you can do to change the market momentum for your organization and retain top employees.

1. Avoid adding meaningless work to an employee’s responsibilities. Eliminate meetings that are not necessary, which will give your people more time to focus on what is most important. I understand the necessity of managing key performance indicators (KPIs), which are required to maintain a successful business. But if all employees ever hear about are numbers, metrics, and performance goals, they will start tuning out. When we connect with people and understand what is meaningful to them, we lead through a different set of KPIs—keep people inspired. And when employees are inspired by their leader, it lights a spark within them versus a fire under them.

2. Stay connected to your leaders. If employees were just tired, they could take a power nap and feel refueled again, but a nap won’t fix this issue. Seventy percent of employee engagement is driven by the leader’s engagement. Knowing this, it is imperative your managers and leaders are functioning at their very best and at the highest level of engagement.

We all have plenty going on, but consider this: Are you consistently canceling your 1:1 time because you’re allowing other things to control your time? If so, what type of leadership style does that convey to your associates? It can make them feel unimportant and undervalued. When people don’t feel valued or heard that directly affects the purpose and meaning in their work. If there is no purpose or meaning, that can lead to an unhealthy emotional well-being and the feeling of burnout. I have personally experienced this in my career and remember it all too well. It was draining, mentally exhausting, and over time, it affected my health. Purpose is powerful. It helps drive an organization’s mission forward and fuels an employee from within by underscoring that even during challenging at times, what they do matters and is appreciated. As Craig Groeschel says, “You will never lead well when you are on empty.”

3. Build a strengths-based culture. As an executive coach, the organizations I see doing the best during challenging times are those who are proactive rather than reactive.

Organizations that integrate the value of “love” into their workforce experience more positive outcomes regarding employee engagement. A big part of that is providing leaders with the resources they need to stay engaged and become refueled from within. This is one of the reasons I enjoy helping organizations build strengths-based cultures. It inspires leadership engagement and contributes to a culture of well-being rather than burnout. There are numerous studies highlighting what we’re not doing, but there aren’t enough that talk about what we are doing right.

When a leader understands how to perform at their best by using their strengths, it feeds their well-being. Likewise, when a leader understands an employee’s strengths and how to maximize their potential, it communicates to the employee that “I see you and I value the contribution you make within our organization.” When a manager and an employee play to their strengths, you have a winning combination that leads to top performance.

4. Understand each employee’s passions. I was highly proficient in most areas of my corporate job, so my leader always gave me more assuming that I loved the work. However, I felt drained when I did many of those tasks. A strength is something we are both talented at and energized from. There are many employees who are good at certain tasks, but they are not energized when doing them. Our strengths relate to our purpose and fuel our passion in our work. Think of it this way: If a fire can double in size every two minutes, what would happen if you set your passion on fire?

A strength is something we are both talented at and energized from.

Dialing into one’s strengths is a key starting point when considering the factors contributing to burnout. Whether it is for you as an individual, or someone on your team, understanding your people’s strengths can offer a quick assessment. To illustrate, someone who is continuously pushing through a task or project that does not align with their core strengths is likely going to “hit a wall.” This is especially true within an organization. Being informed of people’s strengths allows for prudent planning and better positioning of human resources within a team. This helps to mitigate burnout and maximize efficiencies.

Let these ideas be the spark that take you and your people from being burned out to fired up!

To retain top employees, use these 10 stay interview questions.  

Kelly recently contributed a story on leading with love. Read it here.