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3 ways to address and prevent employee burnout

Nov 19, 2020

Coauthored by Aly McKinster

Is your organization on guard against employee burnout? How are you addressing it when you find it? What are you doing to proactively prevent it?

Employee burnout has always been an issue for organizations, but it may be especially prevalent right now. Employees are under significant stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other 2020 events that have brought change, disruption and uncertainty to their lives, and every person’s situation is unique.

What many leaders don’t realize at first is that stress amplifies a person’s typical behaviors. They rely on their strongest behaviors to battle stress, but that isn’t always productive. For example, under stress, a person with dominant behavioral traits can come across as authoritarian to their team members and upset team dynamics. If they are aware this could happen, they can be mindful around softening their communication style. Stress and a work-from-home environment can also make team members communicate in ways they wouldn’t face to face. What was once a high-performing team can get out of balance, leaving members at differing levels of engagement and performance.

For each employee who is either burnt out or on the journey toward burnout, your goal certainly should be to address disengagement and low performance on an individual basis at the manager and team level. But don’t forget to also identify who is engaged and performing well so that you can continue providing them with support to prevent disengagement and burnout. Putting out the obvious fires you see doesn’t mean overlooking smoldering embers. Managers should have the training and tools they need to address the needs of each team member, as well as be empowered to make critical decisions.

Here are three ways you can proactively prevent employee burnout or address disengagement in your team:

1. Reward employees in a way that’s tailored to them

Compensation isn’t the only way to reward employees. Recognition can make them feel important and a critical member of the team and organization. However, recognition must be done the right way.

We often tout the effectiveness of The Predictive Index® (PI) tools like the behavioral assessment, which identifies an individual’s behavioral drives and needs, as well as their strengths and areas of struggle. When managers have access to this behavioral assessment, they can see whether the individual employee prefers public recognition or private recognition. Maybe they’d prefer one-on-one recognition from their manager, accompanied by a deeper conversation, than a public announcement during an afternoon get-together with the whole office. Others might prefer the opposite. Getting this right can go a long way to improving employee engagement.

Depending on what their behavioral drives are, you can also offer employees other rewards, such as greater flexibility in the hours they work or when they work.

2. Revisit roles and job descriptions

For many organizations, the pandemic has led to layoffs, which has added onto employees’ already full plates as they try to do their job as well as that of a former team member.

This can easily lead to employee burnout. That’s why it’s important to revisit your team’s job descriptions and roles to ensure they’re still accurate. If they’re not, you first need to understand whether each employee can truly handle the expanded responsibilities they’ve been asked to take on, whether they’re equipped to do so, and how they feel about the situation. If the result is positive, adjustments can be made to the existing role and job description based on what the position requires now (and recognize that added responsibilities may warrant an adjustment in compensation and title). If not, help these employees find the balance they need to stay engaged and productive by using the coaching and development tools that PI has to offer.

PI tools can be a great asset. You can create job targets in the PI platform and compare a job to the employee’s behavioral profile. The result shows how well the two fit together and identifies reasons for potential disengagement. It allows you to work with the employee on areas of misalignment with the current role and provide tools and resources to help them be more successful.

3. Help teams better understand one another

PI really shines when it comes to teams. A significant part of avoiding team friction is understanding each other and communicating effectively. PI helps team members understand what drives their teammates and how they like to communicate, make decisions and take action as a team.

For example, you might have one team member who thinks small talk is an imposition on another person’s time, so they message a teammate asking for an update on a project without first saying hello or asking how their morning is going. This other teammate thinks the lack of small talk is rude and doesn’t want to be treated like just another cog in the machine. Both are valid communication styles, but they’re coming into conflict. PI can help these two team members better understand one another’s communication preferences, which allows them to not only tailor their own style around each other but also recognize each other’s true intent.

This is equally true for managers. It’s critical to tailor your management style to the individual, even if it requires you to step outside your comfort zone. PI provides manager strategy and coaching guides that can help you identify how to adjust your management style based on the employee and their behavioral profile. This helps you better meet their needs, combat disengagement and develop stronger, more productive teams. It can also help you address poor performance with employees who are stressed and disengaged, giving them the support they need to turn things around.

PI can help you with employee burnout

There’s a lot you can do without PI to address burnout and disengagement, but PI’s tools certainly make it easier to identify and implement solutions. PI is effective at helping leaders and teams look at the self, at how the team is operating and interacting, at how crisis might affect the team and at what managers can do to increase the team’s resilience moving forward.

Wipfli can help guide your organization on its journey of implementing and effectively using PI. From training to execution, we can help you leverage PI to improve engagement, reduce team conflicts, hire the right people for the right position, and optimize talent. Click here to learn more about PI, or continue reading on:

4 ways behavioral data helps you improve employee engagement

How Predictive Index tools can help organizations reach DEI goals

How Predictive Index helps you optimize talent from the inside out


Heather L. Debelak, PI, OCI, OEI
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