7 Signs Your Employees Are Burning Out

Employee burnout isn’t just a phenomenon that happens somewhere else–it could be lurking in your workplace too. See if any of these situations remind you of what’s happening in your workplace:

“It’s not my fault I didn’t meet the deadline,” defended Alyssa. “The office manager doesn’t stock extra printer cartridges, and the printer ran out of ink. I couldn’t print out all the documents I needed.”

“How do you find time to go to your kids’ games?” Peter enviously asked a friend. “I have no life. I’m married to my job.”

“Sorry I’m late again,” panted Susan as she dumped her purse into her desk drawer. “I know you needed that report last night. I promise it will be the first thing I work on this morning.”

Stress and overwork certainly create an unhealthy workplace atmosphere. But they can also lower your employees’ productivity and increase employee turnover.

According to Dana Wilkie of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions. This is largely due to unfair compensation, unreasonable workload, and too much overtime or after-hours work, states a November 2016 survey of 614 U.S. HR professionals, 95 percent of whom agree that employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention.

What should you look for to determine if your employees are victims of this epidemic? Here are 7 signs your employees are burning out, plus some ways you can counteract stress and positively recharge the atmosphere:

Playing the Blame Game

When employees are under stress, it’s often because there is more work to accomplish than can possibly be completed in a day. If something falls through the cracks—say, a package doesn’t get mailed, or a report is overdue—it’s human nature for your employee to become defensive and blame someone else, or even lie about it. Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends and contributor to American Express’s OpenForum, advises that you “counter this impulse among your employees by admitting your own missteps, assigning blame in private and making sure your team members feel comfortable coming to you when they make a mistake. You could emphasize solving the issue in the future, not laying blame for the past.”

Having No Personal Life

Sometimes, because you care so much about your business results, your standards and policies can unwittingly overburden employees. For instance, one organization I know is always trying to meet intense deadlines. Employees are expected to be at work at 7:30 a.m. and stay until the boss leaves, which usually isn’t until at least 7 p.m., and often much later. Not only are they probably breaking a few labor laws, but also employee burnout is making their workers less productive!

Set policies that make things easier but that still let workers get the job done, suggests Campbell. For instance, allow a compressed workweek, one work-at-home day a week, flex hours, or personal days in exchange for extra hours spent on a project. Also consider hiring contingent staff to give your team a boost to meet the deadline.

Calling in Sick

Are an unusually high number of your workers calling in sick? Germs aren’t the only thing that can make employees sick—so can stress! Crying or being upset are also indicators that there’s just too much pressure on the job. Lead by example and encourage your employees to take their breaks, leave their desks for lunch, or even take a walk. One manager I know takes his team out for a daily walk around the complex, using this time to get updates from everyone on their progress. Listening also allows him to learn what’s going on in their personal lives and strengthen his relationship with each direct report.

Complaining Customers

If your customer complaints are up, it could be that employee morale is down. When employees are stretched to the breaking point, it’s easier for them to make mistakes and fail to deliver a performance that satisfies those they serve. Ask yourself if your team is currently keeping customers happy. “You might examine whether your mission statement addresses serving customers well,” admonishes Campbell. Place reminders of your mission statement where workers can see them. Also, set realistic expectations with your customers, because overpromising to customers will only create additional employee stress–which leads to employee burnout.

Having No Fun

When was the last time you sponsored a team outing? It could be a casual lunch at the local salad bar, an afternoon outing to the bowling alley, or even a rented suite at your favorite sporting event. Regardless, relaxing time spent away from the office as a team creates stronger emotional connections, fun memories, and enhanced working relationships.

Not Celebrating Excellent Achievement

Have you been too busy to let your team know how incredibly well your high performers did last month? Such neglect could send your star employee into burnout mode. Take time to publicly congratulate team members who have performed in an outstanding way. After all, who isn’t motivated by praise and recognition to do even better in the future? And the employees who aren’t performing as well will strive harder in order to receive a higher level of praise.

Departing Employees

Of the 7 signs your employees are burning out, this one is the most significant and potentially costly for you, especially in the current candidate’s market. The longer employees experience high levels of stress and low levels of appreciation and recognition, the more likely they are to look elsewhere for meaningful work. To decrease the likelihood of employee turnover, proposes Campbell, try creating a once-a-week casual dress day, allowing volunteer work once a month during work hours, reviewing compensation packages to ensure they’re receiving a fair market wage, or providing lunch once a week. Offering perks unique to your company culture can make employees want to stay even when occasional stressful conditions naturally occur.

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