Banishing Burnout in Leaders: Managing Fatigue in Your Organization

Burnout is a serious threat to any organization, and 2020-2021 was a doozy. The consequences of burnout are both individual and organizational. For the individual, there is risk for physical illness or mental breakdowns that can lead to unemployment or disability. For organizations, it leads to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and turnover rates, declining morale among employees and other negative outcomes. Let’s challenge the stories you have around fatigue and give you a place to get started in managing it in your organization.

Many of the CEOs, business owners and founders I have been working with recently have expressed some level of fatigue in their organization, if not in themselves, in their leadership team at the least. Fatigue can happen for many reasons. It can happen when things are going really well and you’re just trying to “keep up” or when things are not going well, we are overworked, or resisting something about our current circumstance.

Resistance

That last one is important. I believe most fatigue comes from some sort of resistance. Resistance comes from fear by nature, and when we are in a state of resistance to something (a circumstance or an event) our chemistry changes. We become chemically different than if we were not resisting anything at all. This chemical change is often called the “fight or flight” response because it gives us an edge to fight off whatever threat there may be – whether that’s a hungry bear chasing you, fear of not meeting expectations for next quarter results…or imagining how difficult it will be to make critical decisions as we head into 2022 and another winter of pivoting due to COVID.

This sort of anxiety/resistance causes fatigue quickly, which can lead into burnout pretty easily too. Burnout is defined as having nothing left- physically, emotionally and spiritually. And it is a plague in many organizations today. But what most leaders don’t realize is that, regardless of their best intentions, they could be the ones preventing others in the organization to seek healthier and more aligned ways of being.

Your Responsibility as a Leader

As a leader, you (and your actions) create the culture that demonstrates to employees what being healthy looks like. You have an opportunity here- if not more of a responsibility at this point in time- to set the tone around how we respond and react as leaders during times of uncertainty…not just with our words but also our behavior. It is truly a great thing when organizations prioritize self care because it allows them to be their best selves for their team, their customers, and their loved ones.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself–

  • What level of fatigue do YOU have?
  • What are you resisting?
  • What are you doing to keep yourself balanced and whole?

You can have all the systems in place to encourage aligned behavior on your organization but if leaders are not leading by example, most employees will not take advantage of these opportunities.

Take care of yourself, and your organization will follow suit.

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