How to Manage an Employee That’s Burning Out

Written by Dave Bailey

Filed under coaching psychology

Burnt out employee at desk

They’re exhausted. They haven’t taken a vacation day in almost a year. And while they put on a brave face, everyone can see they’re struggling. Burnout — a state of emotional and physical exhaustion brought on by stress — can happen suddenly, so what should you do if you notice the signs in someone?

Leaders often jump to policy, asking questions like, ‘What can we do to stop burnout in our employees?’ However, if the problem is starting to appear, you may need to intervene. Here’s how you might do it:

1. Take the individual aside and tell them what you’ve noticed, making it clear that you care about them.

2. Ask questions to help them clarify the problem — and assume you don’t know all the details.

3. Rather than asking how you can help, ask them what they could do to improve the situation. Follow up with, ‘Is that enough?’ and, ‘What else could you do?’

4. Provide encouragement (and permission). When you’re in a position of authority, agreeing with someone’s ideas can help them take the steps to making a change.

5. Agree to follow-up by a set date, to make sure they’re okay and to see if the changes have improved the situation. 

Ultimately, emotional change starts with them.

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