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The Real Cost of Burnout

How Ideas of Individualism and Meritocracy Fuel Worker Burnout

The Real Cost of Burnout

To Shyft beyond Burnout, we must address the culture and the mindset that creates it.

As high-achieving leaders, we set the tone for our organizations and influence our company cultures. We have high expectations for ourselves and for members of our staff. We work hard – we have made many sacrifices to get where we are. Most of us push the limits of work-life balance. When we feel the impingement of Burnout, we often ignore it – pushing through to keep pace with our counterparts and to maintain the status quo.

But is this sustainable?

There is a fine line between excelling, going above and beyond to rise to the top, and creating a culture of expectations that lead to Burnout for everyone (employees, staff and us). This is where we need to reevaluate.

Burnout is much more expensive and costly than most realize. The reality of work-life culture is under scrutiny and leaders are at the center of the discussion. We are caught between the perception of what is required to succeed, the pressure of success culture, and the reality of the damage, turnover, and decreased productivity of Burnout.

Cost / Benefit Analysis

As leaders, we are not immune to the costs of Burnout and we have heard the benefits that work-life balance brings to engagement, but we rarely create environments that support balance or prevent Burnout. Why? We struggle with the disconnect between what we want and what we feel like we must do to remain competitive. Virtually every organization struggles to create a culture that supports engaged workers that are high-performing and have a life they love outside of work. Unfortunately, we are falling prey to the cultural norms of success culture that feeds Burnout.

Feeding Burnout

Photo by Cyle De Guzman on Unsplash

Burnout culture is fostered by corporate culture. Behaviors, language, and symbols within our organizational cultures propagate the pressure to work harder and longer to get ahead and to be the one that appears the most available and the most dedicated. The burden of being available to co-workers, employers, and clients 24/7—the expectation to respond to emails, texts, and phone calls at all hours—is exhausting. It includes sacrificing time as a parent, a spouse, a partner, and as a friend. Burnout culture eats away at our sleep, our willingness to take vacation, our mental well-being, our decision-making, and our enjoyment of life.

No One Can Afford the Burnout Bill $$$

  • Decreased Productivity
  • On the Job Mistakes
  • Lower Levels of Job Satisfaction
  • Decision-Fatigue
  • Higher Levels of Stress and Ailments
  • Turnover

Yet we seem unwilling to modify our work environments to stave off Burnout.

Burnout Percentages are Shocking

In 2015, Deloitte’s Workplace Burnout Survey found

  • 77 percent of workers say they have experienced Burnout
  • 42 percent of workers have consciously left a job, a boss or a culture that created Burnout
  • 70 percent of professionals say employers aren’t doing enough to prevent or alleviate Burnout

Burnout does not discriminate; men and women, young and older, all experience it. Stress, long-hours, and Burnout correlate with high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and dangerous coping mechanisms – drugs, alcohol, and other forms of substance abuse. The World Health Organization now recognizes Burnout as a medical condition, and it is codified in the medical communities ICD-11 code book – the standard for International Classification of Diseases. A group of business management researchers’ attributes over 120,000 deaths per year to “how U.S. companies manage their work forces.”

Ignoring Burnout is Not an Option

Ignoring Burnout and hoping it goes away or that employees will figure out how to deal with it on their own is not an option. Society is Shyfting in many ways, and as employees become more aware of the dangers of Burnout and experience the negative consequences as a result of it, we, along with our companies will need to adapt to survive.

To Shyft Beyond Burnout

To Shyft beyond Burnout, we, must start reevaluating the cultural expectations that we allow to influence our organizations and Shyft beyond the status quo. We must train ourselves and our leadership teams to connect the dots between expectations and reality – the culture we create and the costs of Burnout our organization is experiencing.

Working harder and longer to be more available while making sacrifices is why we think we are where we are. I get it – this thinking is indoctrinated into American success story. The idea that hard work pays off. We value the appearance of working long-hours because it is an outward representation of commitment that is visible to others. This is why appearing busy is often equated with dedication to the company. We create cultures that define the ideal worker as the one that works the longest hours. Yet, we all know that quantity does not equal quality, so why are we still holding it up as the standard? No one person or company is responsible for Burnout. It is the culmination of history, capitalism, the explosion of the service industry, gig work, materialism, and socialization—it is a way of thinking that has permeated culture and the minds of workers and leaders alike. It is part of our individualistic meritocratic ideals. These ideologies influence our actions and expectations which reinforces Burnout culture. We are caught in a feedback loop of expectations, perceptions, and reality.

So, how do we Shyft?

We Shyft by addressing the thinking and behaviors creating Burnout. There is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all approach to beating it. Individual leaders, teams, and organizations need to assess their internal operations and cultures to Shyft – to challenge the feedback loop that perpetuates Burnout.

First Things First

People want meaning and purpose at work while also having a life they love outside of work. People are starting to recognize the costs of giving up too much for work – cost / benefit analysis impacts what individual employees are willing to do and give. To accommodate a Shyft, we need to reevaluate wearing long-hours at the office as a badge of honor or rite of passage.

To steer clear of Burnout culture, we must think more openly about

  • Innovating – creating cultures that foster success without over taxing staff
  • setting limits on after-hours communications like texting, emailing, and phone calls
  • making sure that everyone takes their earned time off (vacation),
  • offering flexible work schedules
  • leading by example—showing staff that we value life outside of work

Cultural Shyfts take time, but they are well worth the results.

The time to Shyft is now!

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