How are you feeling today? Exhausted, overwhelmed, cynical, bored, apathetic, dissatisfied, despondent, anxious, annoyed, unstimulated? Did you have similar emotions a week ago? How about a month ago?
No, this is not an introduction to Psychology 101, but rather a prompt to ‘’check-in’’ with your emotional status as a business owner of an SME (small medium enterprise).
If you nod your head in agreement with any of these emotions, red flags should be waving at you right now.
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines the term Burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration”.
Burnout is not instant. There is a gradual almost undetectable progression towards this condition, occurring little by little. Think of the analogy about the frog in a pot of water heating up ever so slightly and unnoticeable, until it is too late.
A burnout scenario occurs in a similar fashion: the mind and body will keep adapting to the abnormal situation, as ‘’the new normal” sometimes for extended periods of time, until you suddenly find yourself down the deep dark tunnel of despair or with a condition such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome.
Time to define
According to a study by the University of Zaragoza in Spain, Occupational Burnout is subdivided into three primary categories.
- Frenetic Burnout – Effectively Exhausted
Refers to “a category of people who are very involved and ambitious and who overload themselves to fulfil the demands of their jobs”. These individuals are incredibly ambitious with a growing tendency to obtain significant successes and achievements. They burden themselves with too many responsibilities and commit all their energy efforts to overcome tough challenges or attain unrealistic goals.
Indicates to “indifferent and bored subjects who fail to experience personal development in their jobs”. People in this category experience an increasing sense of indifference and lack of enthusiasm for their jobs, escalated by the fact that they are not able to identify the purpose of their role anymore. Not having enough work at hand, completing monotonous tasks and lack of variation in their daily routines contribute significantly to workers suffering from “Bore-out”.
- Worn-out – Overwhelmingly Apathetic
Visible in individuals who are experiencing “feelings of a lack of control over the results of their work and a lack of acknowledgement for their efforts, which finally leads them to neglect their responsibilities”. The absence of recognition for their efforts and a general disregard for the importance of their jobs cause these employees to mentally just ‘’check-out” decreasing overall effectivity and efficiency.
“Working your fingers to the bone, dying from lack of stimulation or not giving a damn anymore?
Prevention is better than cure
Most of us (hopefully) visit the dentist twice per year, go for an annual checkup and aim for the prescribed ‘’10 000’’ steps per day as prescribed by our wellness programmes, all to improve general health and wellbeing (or to fly somewhere at 30% less than the standard price for that matter).
Preventative tactics will always trump remedial action.
- Avoiding Burnout
- Lay down ground rules or borders (with yourself mostly) regarding the workload you are prepared to take on. Effectively prioritise by distinguishing between urgent and important.
- Delegate, it’s easier than you think. There is tremendous power in a positive “NO”!
- Effectively prioritise by distinguishing between urgent and important.
- Preventing Bore-Out
- Continuously redefine your purpose as a manager or business owner. Are you working in your business or on your business?
- Still waiting for the IT Techie to update your software programmes or the marketing administrator to post a blog on the company website? Enrol in a few webinar programmes to spice up the daily slump and increase your learning curve.
- Question more. Satisfy your curiosity regarding a topic that fascinates you.
- Counteracting Worn-Out
- Identify the purpose of your role in the company.
- Schedule “zero effort’’ times in your diary where you either do nothing or engage in a fun activity unrelated to work.
- Offer ‘’pro bono” assistance to lower ranking staff whether it is teaching the tea lady to use Gmail, or helping the security guard to set up a bank account.
- Develop a list of mini-goals with clear deadlines and timeframes for intended completion and celebrate even the smaller accomplishments.
A balancing act
Rome was not built in a day, nor did your burn-out situation develop instantly. The time needed for re-establishing equilibrium depends on how far the scale of imbalance has tipped against you.
One foot in the burnout box may require only a few weeks to alleviate, but if you are pushing the bottom of the barrel, improvement may take many months to accomplish.
In the end, the act is upon you to balance the scale between too much and too little.