Today I’d like to talk about a silent cause of workplace burnout. That is a damaging feeling of having no control over what is happening to you.
What is burnout?
You are burned out when you feel very low levels of energy. You have become very cynical and negative towards the work that you’re doing. You might be distancing yourself mentally from the tasks in hand. There is a lot of information out there about burnout and its negative effects on an individual and an organisation. I want to focus on one particular aspect that I don’t think gets enough air time. That is the feeling that you’re banging your head against a brick wall over situations you simply have no control over in the workplace. It is your perceived lack of ability to control the situation that contributes to the feelings of burnout. You stay silent and the issue grows.
Recognise this scenario?
Perhaps you’ve spent a lot of time and effort and energy on creating a new initiative that you know will deliver positive results for the organisation. But due to internal politics that are outside your control, it’s either squashed completely, or it’s taken away and given to someone else to deliver. And this happens more than once. Or you feel like the voice you had within the organisation is no longer being listened to and you don’t know why. There could be many reasons that build towards the position you’re in, but the end result is that you no longer feel as effective as you once were. You expend enormous time and energy and determination in trying to correct your feelings. And your ability to cope with all the various demands can start to slide.
Distress within the workplace
In my corporate career I’ve certainly experienced that horrible feeling and I’ve observed it in colleagues around me. I believe it causes a lot of distress within the workplace. And it certainly does not contribute to the productivity of the organisation. So what can you do about this? If it’s something my clients are experiencing, we look at all the aspects they might be able to work on both on a practical level and in terms of dealing with emotions. And we follow a process to create a solution that’s unique to them.
Step one is acknowledging it’s going on. That’s absolutely key. Operating in denial means the cycle won’t be broken and it will take longer to resolve.
It’s then possible to look at specific measures to take within the workplace. It might be talking to senior manager. It might be working cross functionally in a more effective way. There are always things within your control that you can do to alleviate the problem. They may be right under your nose. Sometimes the culture of a workplace isn’t going to change, and planning for a new role, in a different environment, may be the way forward. The solutions will vary from individual to individual.
To sum up
A combination of practical action within the workplace, and sometimes finding the support of the right professionals outside the workplace is the answer. There are always ways to manage your emotions more effectively in order to get a good outcome for you. I will be looking at more aspects of this issue in future posts.