Leadership Burnout

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We face a crisis in leadership. We’ve talked about it for years but it often gets swept aside as too big to tackle. That crisis is leadership burnout.

leadership burnout

Recent research shows that around 50% of leaders are considering quitting their roles. On top of this, we hear that Tesla CEO Elon Musk hates his job. He won’t be the only high profile c-suite leader questioning where they find themselves.

Even in the pre-pandemic era leaders suffered in silence. It takes enormous strength for an individual to admit that they are not coping as well as they would like to. And of course, if that individual is suffering from burnout, they will struggle to reach out before the condition claims yet another casualty.

Workplace culture is at the root of burnout

As we continue to wade through the changing challenges of the pandemic, burnout amongst leaders is increasingly prevalent and destructive, both on an organisational and a personal level. Senior leaders and their HR teams need to be mindful to have a strategy to prevent burnout from the top down and through every level of management. Why? Because our overstressed leaders inevitably drive unhappiness in their teams.

“ … it’s not only the volume of work that is causing distress but rather workplace culture. Organisations that create environments of tokenism, onlyness, and discrimination are often culprits that tax workers far beyond traditional burnout. A simple work-from-home policy will not erase the microaggressions and harassing behaviour that may be occurring daily in the company.”

Kelley Bonner, CEO of Burn Bright Consulting

There is the argument that we’ve grown to adapt to remote working, social distancing and mask wearing. Now it’s ‘all change’ once again, but not with complete clarity. While some organisations such as Goldman Sachs, appear to be driving towards a full return to the pre-pandemic normal, others including the big supermarkets, are moving towards a halfway house between that old normal and the pandemic measures we have become accustomed to. It is these grey areas that will present additional challenges to employees and leaders who must manage everyone’s expectations.

Workplace relationships, working parents and waning engagement

The government has recommended that organisations set up mental health hotlines. However well-intentioned, this can only be part of the solution. Much of the stress and strain that leads to burnout is due to poor workplace relationships based on a lack of emotional awareness and regulation. A mental health hotline won’t improve those relationships. If someone has to pick up the phone to the hotline, the workplace relationship has already broken down. The metaphorical horse hasn’t just bolted, it’s disappeared into the distance, towards a tribunal.

Aside from workplace relationships we have the return of the elephant in the room. Who will look after the children over the summer? With the end of term and 6 to 8 weeks of school holidays ahead, difficulties around grandparents and childcare clubs, 63% of parents with primary children report that they have insufficient childcare this summer. Families with travel plans will be unwilling to mix and share childcare to avoid the ‘ping’, leaving parents working at home but also having to keep the children off their screens. This alone is a huge contributor to the stress facing working parents and inevitably spills over into their workplace relationships.

Of course it is not just leaders who will struggle. Some 47% of employees report that they feel less engaged with their work and have become less career focused over the last 16 months. The potential impact on productivity and hiring will be a worry for leaders, especially as job vacancies climb past pre-pandemic levels and competition for talent hots up.

What can you do to tackle leadership burnout?

The most important step is to recognise leadership burnout. And while it is crucial to support those currently suffering, it is also vital to put in place a strategy to work towards its prevention.

Prevention and remedy comes in the form of greater emotional intelligence, resilience and motivation. Put these three core soft skills at the heart of your organisational culture and values to strengthen workplace relationships and create a positive in it together organisation wide attitude.

Your leaders and teams will find themselves better prepared to deal with challenges in a proportionate manner, bounce back from the setbacks and move confidently into the future.

Contact us to learn how to tackle and prevent leadership burnout in your organisation.

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