Take Control- Stop Feeling Burned Out At Work!


February 26, 2018

Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Pressured?  Like no one cares?  Listen, I hear you because I’ve been there too.  Feeling overwhelmed at work is nothing new.  But, when you’re going through it, you can feel like the only one dealing with the problem.
The most interesting thing about people who are experiencing burnout is that you often don’t notice until it’s too late.  People are good at covering up the stress they feel for fear of being perceived as weak.  In fact, they will go to great lengths to put on a happy face as they suffer in silence.  This is one of the reasons that by the time you either notice, or are told, that someone is burned out, it has often reached critical levels. And if you’re the one just noticing you feel this way, it’s often hard to shake yourself out of the situation by the time you notice.  There are a few factors I see that commonly lead to burnout.

3 Stressors Leading to Burnout

  • Political Climate- There is no denying that our political climate has amped up the stress people feel about their personal situations.  People are worried about how government changes impact their work, their benefits, etc.
  • Continuous Connectivity- Second is the continuous connectivity people have in today’s world.  Whether you’re talking about connection at work or with social media, we all feel like we are “on” 24/7.  This information fatigue begins to wear on people over time.  Tie this to the political climate, and you’re in a situation where you’re being bombarded with negative messages at a constant pace.
  • Impact of Understaffing- The last factor is doing more with less.  What used to be considered a badge of honor is now a huge contributor to that burned out feeling.  As organizations have scaled back their workforce, the workload has only increased.  It leaves employees and managers feeling quite powerless.
The realization that you are powerless to change a situation is key.  It’s often that feeling of being out of control that leads to burnout.  If you’re feeling this way at work, the best thing to do is speak up and take positive action.

Tactics to Address the Stress

Limit negative intake- Politics is not the only topic that can cause stress levels to skyrocket.  When you layer in crime, business news, and even entertainment news, you can quickly be overwhelmed with information about people behaving badly.  Any of this in small doses can be fine, but be sure to step away and seek positive stories to balance out the information you choose to consume.
Create boundaries- Whether it’s over the internet or in person, YOU have the choice to limit and create boundaries.  If the negative intake comes from only a few sources, cut those off.  If it’s social media, uninstall the apps on your phone.  This may sound like basic advice, but you’d be surprised how many people complain about it and never delete the apps.  If there are only specific people contributing to the negative flow of information, limit their ability to do this.  I have so many conversations about people who feel bad “unfriending” or “unfollowing” someone else.  Listen, it is YOUR choice who to follow and read online.  Make it without apology.  Just because you’re not “friends” with someone online does not mean you can’t be friends in real life.  Boundaries are there to help make you more comfortable and to protect yourself.
Open up to your boss-   It’s likely your manager is feeling the same way about staffing levels, so this conversation should not be a surprise.  First, be honest and up front.  Don’t beat around the bush. Come prepared to tell your manager how you’re feeling, what is causing that feeling, and the impact on your health.  Then, have a few ideas to propose on how to alleviate the stressors.  If you come with suggestions, it makes it easier for the manager to just agree to the proposed changes instead of having to come up with a solution for you.

Negative Impact of Burnout

When you or your employees are burned out, several things happen.  First, health suffers.  This is not only personally detrimental, but can also be costly to the company from a benefits perspective. Second, performance suffers.  Employees begin to care less as their burnout grows.  You may see decrease in productivity or in the quality of the work product.  This also hits the company’s bottom line in a negative way.  Finally, retention suffers.   This now causes the remaining employee to pick up more work, perpetuating the problem.  It also means the company can have increased costs to source, recruit and hire a replacement.
So, how do you find a company that will value the feelings of the employee and prevents burnout?  If you are looking for a job, be up front in asking the hiring manager and potential colleagues about things like the pace of the work, the actual fluxuations in workload, and how it is handled.  While you’ll never be able to get a 100% accurate picture, you will be able to pick up on enough clues to guide you.  Also, ask HR to provide the type of programs they offer.  You may find that there are specific well-being programs to encourage volunteer time, mentor programs, etc. that can help prevent employees from becoming burned out.


  • I work in healthcare and we’ve been offering everyone massages a couple of times so that people can disconnect from their screens. It’s been a tough process!

    • @Kathy- That’s always a great way to help people unwind. I remember thinking those were strange, years ago, until I had a chair massage. It was amazing! Great way to help employees.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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