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  • Writer's pictureMarie Simonsen

What managers can do to prevent burn-out in their teams

Questions to ask yourself in order to sustain a happy and high performing team

by Marie Simonsen, Executive Master HEC Paris & Certified EMDR and TRE Practitioner

According to the World Health Organization “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe other areas of life”.

Furthermore, job-related stress contributes to 550 million workdays lost annually, and the World Health Organization estimates that $1 trillion is lost in productivity each year as a result. Additionally, burnout leads to disengaged employees, which ends up costing their employer an average of 34% of their annual turnover.

So as a people manager, what can you do to successfully manage your team members in order to prevent workplace stress and avoid a team on fire?

First of all, have you taken the time to observe and really get to know your team members? Do you truly know their strengths and weaknesses? As managers we can feel overloaded and even overwhelmed, but taking time to observe and exchange with each member of your team is an investment worth gold. When people are playing to their strengths the probability of personal success and excellence is high, as well as the intrinsic motivation of that individual. Observation is as important as communicating, as you may detect qualities in a team member that they are not aware of themselves. Spotting and encouraging individual growth in your team will have a positive ripple effect. You may have a star or two in your team, the so called “high potentials”- but encouraging the entire team will be beneficial in the long run – especially now, in times of uncertainty and rapid change. It takes many seeds to plant a garden and today’s competitive skills do not guarantee tomorrow’s success. Never stop observing your people and continue noticing things you perhaps haven’t seen before, and then tell them what you see. Be genuinely curious about the people you think you know very well. The ability to connect with others depends on the connection you have with yourself, so being a manager also means to work on yourself - it’s an ongoing process which is lifelong, the mental health of your team depends on it. 

Providing a secure space for rest and play has also proved highly beneficial for organizations. Considering that rest and play are key ingredients for innovation and motivation, have you thought of new ways of getting the job done by incorporating these dimensions? How willing are you to take the risk of doing things differently in your company?

How much autonomy and power can you give your team members? Empowering the people in your team through trust is powerful. Giving up control is hard and can sometimes feel like an impossible task because the risk can be perceived as too high. Challenging oneself in this area will play out positively in your team culture. Furthermore, your role as a manager also means to fight for your teams’ resources and to give the credit to your team members when things go well and to take the full responsibility when things don’t go as planned – Doing this will have a strong impact on the well-being of your team and highly reduce chronic workplace stress. Finding joy and satisfaction through the success of others is quite different from the personal success you can experience as an individual contributor and requires to work on oneself as a manager. But in the end of the day, the mental well-being of your team is your responsibility.

When you recruit your new team members do you communicate clearly on the company’s culture and true values? Do you validate that your future team members are sharing the same values as your company? I don’t speak about the official corporate values often defined by HR, but the actual way of doing things in your company. Validating matching values and setting clear expectations is key for a successful relationship and can avoid a lot of suffering later down the road.

The key points I have emphasized here are also valid for you as a manager and something you could suggest to your own manager. Setting this type of standard will have positive ripple effects in the whole company structure and you as a manager have the power to act as a role model.

Burn-out is costly for business and detrimental for the individual and should therefore be taken seriously - prevention and recovery is possible.

References: Areas of worklife model, research by Christina Maslach and Michael P.Leiter, University of California at Berkeley and Acadia University and The body keeps the score by Bessel Van der Kolk

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