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Manager burnout: How to support leadership

Manager burnout: How to support leadership

Burnout has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years, but too many assume the issue relates mainly to workforces and employees. Microsoft recently conducted a survey and found that more than half of leaders (53%) feel burned out at work. It’s clear that addressing burnout in management is critical, too — and not just for the leaders themselves. Leadership burnout can negatively impact overall organizational performance on multiple levels. 

High-level leadership is pivotal in identifying, mitigating, and preventing burnout among managerial teams. Left unaddressed, organizations can see steep declines in productivity, increased turnover rates, and a devastating impact on team morale and employee engagement.

Keep reading to learn actionable strategies that will help you support your management so they can do the best job possible without getting burned out.

Identifying the signs of manager burnout 

While anyone can experience burnout from their job, an executive leadership role has unique pressures. Recent research shows that executives experience 40% more stress and anxiety related to their careers and have worse work-life balance. The same study also found that overall job satisfaction at the executive level has decreased by 15%. 

Recognizing the signs of manager burnout is crucial. It allows your leaders to stay productive and remain mentally and physically well. Whether it’s an increase in irritability, exhaustion, or a sudden inability to make decisions, understanding these leading job burnout symptoms will help you foster a healthy work environment and reduce workplace stress among managers.

Physical and emotional indicators

Workplace burnout can manifest in physical and emotional ways. Sleep disturbance can cause persistent fatigue, and cynical feelings can result in leaders who were once involved and engaged appearing completely detached from or apathetic about their role.

Signs of physical and emotional manager burnout may include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Seeming unmotivated
  • A decrease in productivity
  • Detached from work
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Withdrawing from social interactions
  • Not being engaged
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional volatility
  • Physical symptoms like having headaches or stomach issues

Workplace behavior changes

Burnout often causes people to change how they behave at work. These changes can be noticeable, like avoiding responsibility or suddenly not communicating. They might also be more subtle, like a slow decline in morale or canceling meetings on short notice.

Signs of behavior changes that might indicate leadership burnout can include:

  • Lack of communication: Not communicating effectively or efficiently.
  • Avoiding responsibility: Suddenly pawning responsibilities off on others.
  • Dropping the ball on tasks: Not carrying their weight.
  • Isolating or withdrawing: No-showing or canceling events or meetings.
  • Not being engaged in work-related projects: Appearing detached from ongoing or important tasks. 
  • Having a negative attitude: Being down or displaying a negative outlook. 
  • Losing initiative: Suddenly not caring about tasks, responsibilities, meetings, or projects. 
  • Not being innovative when problem-solving: Accepting old or ineffective solutions rather than attempting to find new ones. 
  • Increased absenteeism: Missing more work or ditching important meetings or events. 
  • Increased tardiness: Being late more than usual.
  • Not collaborating on teamwork efforts: Refusal or apathy toward team projects. 

Root causes of manager burnout

Supervisor burnout can result from several factors. Excessive workload, lack of support, lack of autonomy, and unrealistic expectations are some of the top culprits. Other things, like unhealthy work-life balance and lack of recognition, can also contribute negatively to their mental wellbeing. 

When organizations address these causes of workplace stress and burnout, they can often turn things around — but first, you must be able to identify them.

Unrealistic workloads

One of the more common causes of manager burnout is heavy workloads. One study found that 20% of leaders feel they have too much work. Too much work and not enough time can lead to chronic stress and exhaustion. 

Managers with impossible workloads might struggle with more than just leadership capabilities. The quality of their work can plummet, and they might need help delegating and supporting team members.

Insufficient autonomy

Workplace autonomy is crucial, allowing leaders to thrive and take ownership of their position by making decisions they feel are best. Lack of autonomy stifles leadership creativity and breeds frustration, often leading to burnout. Leaders who don’t have decision-making authority tend to feel disempowered in their roles.

Role ambiguity

A Gallup poll found that 40% of managers feel their priorities compete. When roles are ambiguous or unclear, it can cause uncertainty and confusion for leadership. Role ambiguity makes leaders struggle to be able to organize and complete tasks effectively and efficiently. Clarifying leaders’ responsibilities will increase their confidence so they’re more productive and successful, drastically reducing the risk of burnout. 

Isolation

There’s a saying that it’s lonely at the top, and leaders who feel isolated might detach from their teams and other leadership members. Without that supportive network and collaborative environment, though, leaders might find themselves struggling to cope with their mental well-being. Maintaining a healthy perspective and managing challenges can be difficult for a leader trying to combat the impact isolation brings and avoid burnout.

“Connection with others and involvement in the community is important since isolation studies show that isolation affects the person mentally and emotionally. Being isolated can increase depressive symptoms and generate suicidal thoughts.” - Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, PhD, LCSW-S

Emotional exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion is a hallmark symptom of burnout. Burnout in leadership can impact energy and resilience, as high levels of stress and intense interactions with peers can deplete mental and emotional resources.

Poor work-life balance

Work-life balance for employees is more critical now than it’s ever been. When leaders become overwhelmed with professional responsibilities, it can be easy to neglect personal needs and relationships. Not maintaining balance in life, though, is a recipe for burnout.

Inadequate support

A lack of support can leave some leaders feeling depressed and alone. Research suggests that top executives who experience exhaustion and fatigue — both signs of burnout — likely have insufficient resources. 

Those in leadership positions need guidance and access to resources to navigate challenges effectively. They also need a positive work environment, mentors, and unwavering support to avoid burnout and stay energized in their roles.

How to prevent burnout in management

Identifying burnout in management is one thing — knowing how to prevent burnout is another. It’s worth the effort, though, as fostering a supportive work culture and focusing on mental and emotional well-being will pay dividends. 

To start, encourage open communication, offer resources, and mandate work-life balance. You might also consider providing stress management training and other opportunities to empower your organization’s leaders. 

Establish expectations and clear boundaries

Ensuring everyone in your company — especially members of leadership — has clear expectations and boundaries will reduce stress and prevent burnout. When managers fully understand their roles and responsibilities, it helps them prioritize daily tasks more effectively to manage their workload more efficiently. Boundaries can promote work-life balance, so leaders have time to decompress and recharge regularly before the burnout sets in.

Make their growth and development a priority

Offering opportunities for growth and development empowers leaders. It helps them expand their skills, perspectives, and roles, which in turn can prevent burnout. Companies investing in professional development see higher rates of engagement and motivated leaders who strive for the next step.  

Provide training opportunities

Training the leaders in your organization equips them with the essential skills they need to excel in their roles. Effective training can enhance confidence and the ability to adapt to changing needs and expectations from teams, peers, and superiors. Offering a way to grow provides fulfillment and is an excellent way to thwart leader burnout.

Equip them with resources for their direct reports

“Managing others while caring and being responsible for other people’s livelihood at work can cause burnout if the expectations are unmet or the demands are too high. It is important to collaborate as a team to learn how to support others better and for them to freely express their true needs.” - Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, PhD, LCSW-S

Leaders who have resources for their teams can quickly and easily delegate tasks without worrying. They’ll be able to create a supportive, productive work environment because teams have the tools they need to be successful. This allows leaders to focus on other aspects of their role, reducing stress that otherwise comes from feeling overwhelmed and like they have too much to do. 

Regularly assess the workload of managers

Making it a point to assess leaders’ workloads regularly ensures expectations are manageable and realistic. If you quickly identify areas of potential overload and then offer assistance or adjustments where needed, those on your leadership teams will be able to maintain employee well-being and continue to do their job effectively.

Lead by example

Toxic leadership can set poor expectations and create a stressful work environment. Leading by example sets a positive tone that can substantially reduce the chance of leadership burnout. Leaders who prioritize their well-being, practice healthy self-care habits, and set reasonable boundaries not only remain healthy and energized at work but also encourage their teams to do the same, further reducing workplace burnout. 

Ensure access to mental health support

Access to mental health support is important for everyone in a company. For leaders, though, it can provide vital resources that help combat stress and ensure necessary assistance is available when needed. Companies that address mental health proactively tend to see higher productivity metrics and lower turnover rates.

Allow managers to take time off

Burnout is a real threat, but allowing your managers to take ample time off gives them space and time to recharge so they can return to work refreshed. Numerous studies link work-life imbalance to burnout, so you can support your leaders by allowing them to get enough rest and relaxation.

Reward the efforts of management

When effort and success go unnoticed, it’s a surefire way to burn people out and encourage them to stop trying. However, rewarding and acknowledging the contributions leaders make will create a positive work environment where the value of leadership is evident.

Improve manager wellness with Talkspace

When you emphasize the importance of manager wellness, those in leadership positions will perform better and be more likely to stay with your company long-term. Furthermore, it will have a positive domino effect on the rest of your company and workforce.

A simple but effective and affordable way to offer support and enhance leadership wellness is by providing mental health resources through online therapy for employees. Talkspace is an online platform that makes therapy easy to access. It can be a valuable asset that encourages the leaders in your company to take care of themselves so they can take care of others. 

Request a demo today to learn more about how Talkspace can support your leadership team’s well-being so they can be as effective as possible.

Sources:

  1. “Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?” 2022. Microsoft. September 22. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work-is-just-work/
  2. “Executives Feel the Strain of Leading in the ‘New Normal.’” 2023. Future Forum. February 2. https://futureforum.com/research/pulse-report-fall-2022-executives-feel-strain-leading-in-new-normal/.  
  3. Robison, Jennifer. 2022. “The Antidote to Manager Burnout.” Gallup.Com. Gallup. January 21. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/389057/antidote-manager-burnout.aspx.  
  4. Haar, Jarrod, Urs Daellenbach, Conor O’Kane, Katharina Ruckstuhl, and Sally Davenport. 2021. “Top Executives Work-Life Balance, Job Burnout and Turnover Intentions: Moderated-Mediation with Knowledge Sharing Culture.” New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations 46 (1): 1–22. doi:10.24135/nzjer.v46i1.46. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354642469_Top_Executives_Work-Life_Balance_Job_Burnout_and_Turnover_Intentions_Moderated-Mediation_with_Knowledge_Sharing_Culture.  
  5. Boamah, Sheila A., Hanadi Y. Hamadi, Farinaz Havaei, Hailey Smith, and Fern Webb. 2022. “Striking a Balance between Work and Play: The Effects of Work–Life Interference and Burnout on Faculty Turnover Intentions and Career Satisfaction.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19 (2): 809. doi:10.3390/ijerph19020809. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8775585/.  

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