Burned Out …

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Are you “burned out”?

Everyone has their own definition of being burned out.  I wrote a blog a number of years ago (Am I burned out?) that talked about it.  I’ve taken a number of recent quizzes (unscientific) as to whether or not I am burned out:

  • MindTools.com I scored 67 out of 75. “You are at very severe risk of burnout – do something about this urgently”)
  • The Fried Quiz at Oprah.com.  I scored 27 “You’re Fried”
  • 15Minutes4Me.com.  Moderate Stress, mild anxiety, but severe depression.
  • Psychology Today.  I scored a 78 out of 100.

It looks like I’m either burning out, or have burned out but just don’t realize it.

I guess the first step is understanding that there is a problem.  When I took these type of tests 3 1/2 years ago I was much more borderline.  Now it’s much more evident.  So I need to fix things.  How do you fix “burn out”?

Some companies have organizations that provide counseling services to their staff also known as Employee Assistance Programs.  These providers help sort through the stress and come up with a plan on how to not just cope, but change so that the stress is decreased.

Some people just quit.  I remember someone that I went to school with spent two years at a job in New York City.  When they cam back they basically switched professions.  The pressure that they were under, the feeling of helplessness they had every day, just wore on them until they couldn’t work any more.  You don’t want things to go that far.

There are some people that have tried to categorize why people feel burned out.  There are a number of different problems associated with being burned out:

Lack of control.  A lack of control over your work, your calendar, in general, your life, contributes to the stress and the feeling that nothing they do matters and that everything is in someone else’s hands.  How does this lack of control manifest itself?  When the company you work for changes your job without telling you in advance or by talking to you about it before hand.  When a reorganization occurs and there is no spot for you.  When you are told that you will need to apply for the position that you’ve had for years.  All of these contribute to a feeling of helplessness.

Lack of communication.  This is not a lack of transparency, this is a lack of communication.  Communication can be effective even if there is nothing to communicate.  You don’t need to show progress every week, just acknowledgement that something is going on.  For instance, let’s say that the organization posted a variety of positions internally and the closing date for applicants was two, three or even four weeks ago.  People expect results.  People expect some sort of notification that something actually happened.  Perhaps something along the lines of “For position XYZ there were 20 applications, of which 10 were selected for an interview and 8 have been interviewed so far.”  This shows that something is being done.  Failure to communicate leads to helplessness and depression.

Lack of transparency.  The above example showed communication and transparency.  A lack of transparency would be “Position XYZ has been posted” even weeks after the opportunity was closed.  Or even worse, not saying anything.  A lack of communication and a lack of transparency are a deadly combination.

Lack of perceived fairness.  People want to be treated fairly.  I don’t mind losing a competition to someone if I perceive that the competition was fair.  If my perception is that the competition is unfair than my mind doesn’t want to accept the result.  We can all relate to something in our careers where something seemed to go off the rails, where that level of fairness was not obtained.  I remember an incident with Accenture where I wrote a long email (yes, a long email for me is thousands of words) where I detailed where our client owed us money.  $462,000 in fact.  I highlighted everything.  Every little detail.  About two months after that email someone in the organization was publicly thanked and praised for having recovered … $462,000 from our client.  Funny how that number matched.  (Full disclosure, I was “let go” the following morning as my position was now “redundant.”)  It was not fair and my mind rebelled.

Conflicting values/objectives.  The organization wants to go in one direction but you feel it needs to go in another direction.  Nothing you say is going to make a difference.  They are going left but you feel they should be going right.  Staying in that situation will raise your blood pressure, will increase anxiety and will most definitely make you feel burned out, as no matter what you do, it will not have an impact.

I can relate to all of these items, both now and in the past.  (Even the blood pressure comment as last week I had my highest blood pressure this century.)  Seek help.  Look for advice from those around you, those in an Employee Assistance Program or your doctor.  Don’t suffer in silence as that is the worst thing you can do.  Reach out to make sure that things don’t go sideways on yourself.

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