Five recommendations for managers to reduce the risk of burnout

  • 2024-04-04
  • Viesturs Bulāns, CEO of

There is much discussion lately about well-being in the workplace and reducing the risk of burnout for employees, but little attention is paid to organizational leaders, even though it is precisely managers who experience heightened stress and a heavy burden of responsibility daily who are at a much higher risk of burnout. If the manager's task is to motivate, inspire the team, and provide support in achieving goals, then where can the manager himself find this support? Should top-level managers be able to motivate themselves and recognize burnout symptoms if necessary?

Although we often think that a manager must be a superhero who can handle all problems by themselves, in reality, the lack of support and burnout are issues faced by many managers. Moreover, the more empathetic and humane a manager is, the more they try to care for and support the team, the higher the risk of burnout. A study conducted by the international company "Deloitte" in 2022 reflected that about 70% of organizational leaders have experienced burnout and are considering changing jobs to reduce the risk of burnout. Similarly, a study by "Kantar" in 2023 confirms that in the past year, burnout at work has been more common among managers.

Professional support from outside

When experiencing heightened stress or facing symptoms of burnout, an employee can seek support from their manager, but where can the manager turn to in such a situation? To find the most suitable solution, it is important to define what are the biggest risk factors that managers face. The organizational leader is responsible not only for the well-being of the team but also for achieving the set goals. On the one hand, there are shareholders who expect results, and on the other hand, there is the team that needs support, inspiration, and motivation. To achieve goals, managers often have to make unpopular decisions, such as eliminating a position or reducing the number of employees, etc. From personal experience, I can say that making such decisions for empathetic managers is very difficult and causes heightened stress, so it is necessary to learn to separate the personal from the professional. In situations where a decision is made to terminate an employee, valuable support can also be provided by a professional consultant from outside, who helps the employee prepare for the next stage of their professional life, identify their competencies, and strengths.

Participation in entrepreneurs'/managers' organizations

To reduce the risk of burnout and feel the much-needed support in everyday life, it is recommended for managers to find peers with similar experiences. Of course, a manager is also just a human who may feel tired or not know the answers to all questions, but if a manager shares too much with the team, it can cause anxiety throughout the organization. Employees need to know that they can always rely on their manager and seek support when needed. The best support for a manager and an opportunity to exchange thoughts and opinions is another manager. Of course, this does not mean that a manager should immediately turn to their competitors to share worries and problems. There are various entrepreneurs' and managers' clubs where people from different industries come together (in several clubs, principles are observed that exclude the possibility of multiple competitors being participants). Participation in such clubs or associations is an opportunity for a manager to realize that they are not alone and that others also face similar or identical challenges. And this awareness is the most crucial because, in fact, a manager is one of the loneliest positions in any organization.

Find your "sparring partner"

If there is no obligatory participation in entrepreneurs' or managers' clubs, it may be useful to have the support of a mentor or coach. A coach will not provide ready-made answers or specific actions, but will be like a "sparring partner" with whom to exchange ideas and who will help to look at the situation from the outside. Often, the right questions that encourage us to think outside the box are much more important and useful than initially thought. Support from a mentor can also be useful in discussing various possible solutions together. Moreover, not all recommendations need to be accepted immediately; sometimes, the process of exchanging ideas and perspectives itself helps. Experience shows that most solutions are often found outside the industry, discussing the problem with people from another field who have a fresh perspective. In their daily work, most managers face great pressure, so a trustworthy person is needed, especially for those managers who find it difficult to admit that they do not have answers to all questions. To reduce this pressure, it is also advisable to remember that no one person can have experience in everything.

Don't forget about hobbies, including physical activities

Prolonged stress causes elevated burnout risks, so the more stress we experience in our professional lives, the more important it is to have hobbies that provide positive emotions outside of work. Among hobbies, it is desirable to include those related to physical activities because mental well-being is unthinkable without physical well-being. If we find time for physical activities at least a couple of times a week, it will undoubtedly help us to be more resilient to everyday stress.

The leader sets an example for the team

Although one of the manager's duties is to notice situations where someone in the team shows the first signs of burnout, it is equally important to identify them in oneself. Empathetic managers easily notice if burnout signs affect someone in the team, for example, the person is often tired, easily irritated, procrastinates more, productivity decreases, and tasks that used to bring joy no longer do, but it is much more difficult to notice these things in oneself. We often ignore fatigue because we face pressure to achieve results or are aware of burnout symptoms but deny them. Every manager must find time to pay attention to their own well-being as a tired and burnt-out manager will not be able to support the team. Moreover, the manager should set a positive example for the team.

The time when we used to boast about working overtime or not taking vacations is in the past. If a manager behaves like this, they essentially impose a burden on the entire team, making people feel uncomfortable about taking vacations and maintaining a work-life balance. One of the values of the company "Helmes" is care, not only for others but also for oneself - and this also applies to representatives of management. By taking care of ourselves, we will be able to support our colleagues and peers. Just like with an oxygen mask in an airplane emergency - first, you put it on yourself so you can help the person sitting next to you. By taking care of others, you may not notice burnout creeping up on yourself, so it is important to remember to take care of yourself, not be afraid to talk about this topic, and be brave because a manager is also a human.