This week, the World Health Organization announced that it had changed its definition of “burnout,” now classifying it as a “syndrome” connected with “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
As a leadership coach and corporate trainer, I see first-hand the effects of burnout on employees and organizations. Many of my clients come into coaching exhausted, unable to focus on their work, and lacking motivation. The fulfillment they find in their careers is being eroded by budget cuts, reorganizations, 24/7 smartphone contact, family expectations, an exhausting commute, and more.
The antidote to burnout? Resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt to changing career circumstances, even when circumstances are discouraging or disruptive, and remain productive and engaged in your career.
Let’s look first at five stages I’ve observed on the road to burnout:
- Stage one is the honeymoon stage. This often happens when a person is in a new job or after a promotion. They are working long hours but are also excited about taking on new responsibilities or developing new skills. However, the long hours are depleting their energy and they are running on empty.
- Stage two is when people are constantly on the verge of losing their balance. They are still putting in the long hours but not quite sure why. One of the warning signs of this stage is emotional-escape activities, including a noticeable increase in eating or alcohol use as a means of escape.
- Stage three is usually when a person makes a doctor’s appointment because they are chronically exhausted, physically ill, angry, or depressed.
- Stage four is when the person is in crisis mode and basically a walking time bomb. They often begin to skip work and sometimes take medical leave because they cannot function productively.
- Stage five is when addiction and mental health issues like clinical depression can develop.
It’s never too late to come back from burnout, though. Build resilience by focusing on these five strategies.
Well-being is key to being productive and focused. Do you make your well-being a priority? Do you exercise regularly? Do you give your body the fuel it needs to perform? Are you getting the amount of sleep you need to be at your best? Do you know your stressors and have strategies for dealing with them? Are you deeply connected to something outside yourself such as art, music, literature, nature, or religion?
Self-awareness includes purpose, mindset, and personality type. Articulate your purpose—it’s the starting point for designing your career and aligning it with your values. Be aware of your mindset—it’s essential to resilience and you have the ability to change it. Knowing your personality style and how it affects how you deal with people and situations gives you the tools to be flexible in your interactions with people whose styles are different from yours.
Brand, the third strategy, isn’t just the attributes that describe you—for example, strategic, detail-oriented, collaborative; it’s about the impact you make in your position. My clients report that honing in on their brand has resulted in increased career satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. As important as knowing your brand is communicating it through visual, verbal, and behavioral cues, as well as online.
Connection is about cultivating relationships and building a support system of people you can trust. It is not about gathering as many business cards and LinkedIn connections as possible but about creating and nourishing trusting relationships. I suggest developing supportive relationships in three major areas: your organization, your profession/industry, and your personal life. Making connections is not something that happens overnight and should not be left until a job loss or you need to leave an unsatisfactory position. Be proactive and make a connecting plan, with specifics on people with whom to connect, and when.
Innovation isn’t just for organizations. What are you doing in the next three months to challenge yourself, to learn something new, or to expand your skill set? Innovation can be career-related or it can be a new hobby or interest. It can be attending a class or as simple as reading a book or blog that is relevant to your field. Focusing on innovation keeps you growing, developing, and thinking creatively and can energize you to take the steps needed to be more engaged in your present career or to begin the job search.
Develop your career resilience to beat burnout and take your career in the direction that satisfies you.
Beth Benatti Kennedy, MS, LMFT brings more than twenty years of experience to her role as a leadership and executive coach, resiliency-training expert, and speaker. With an extensive background in career development, she coaches high-potential individuals on how to use their influence strategically, collaborate effectively, and avoid burnout. Kennedy also creates customized training programs that make an impact, with a focus on keeping employees resilient, engaged, and productive, and able to manage change and transition within the organization.
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