Hello Friends,

A happy Monday to you. I spent last week researching how to help my team cope with burnout better. This letter mainly reflects my learning and understanding on the subject. We can overcome burnout and live a more productive life by implementing certain methods.

It is difficult to accept that burnout is an organizational problem. Individuals are not directly responsible for it. Organizational structure, type of work, and leadership style influence burnout. Burnout causes chronic stress, energy depletion and unproductivity.

The mental makeup of each individual determines whether they experience burnout at the same time. Nonetheless, when unproductivity increases, organizations must take action. Burnout, by definition, results from a failure to prioritize personal needs over increased performance expectations. Interestingly, burnout can also occur in our everyday lives. Organizations are not always about work. An organization is a structure, where a group of people work together for a shared purpose. This can also refer to a relationship, as well as society in general.

Psychologists have identified three major reasons for burnout. 1) Overload burnout: People feel exhausted when work hard in search of success in their professional or personal lives. 2) Under-challenge burnout: People who do not feel appreciated, do not enjoy their work, distance themselves from it. In turn, this leads to inefficiency and avoidance of responsibilities. 3) Neglect burnout: People may feel incompetent or incapable of keeping up with the demands of their careers or families. Over time, they lose motivation.

Winona State University’s burnout study¹ describes five stages of burnout. 1) Honeymoon phase: During this phase, people feel high levels of satisfaction and experience some predicted stress. 2) Onset of Stress: Certain days are more difficult than others. People experience a decline in their optimism. 3) Chronic Stress: The level of stress markedly increased at this stage. There are more intense symptoms such as procrastination and aggressive behavior at work and in the home. 4) Burnout: The state of burnout makes it difficult for people to continue as normal. There is an overarching effect of pessimism on work and life. It can lead to the desire to ‘drop out’ of the workplace or society altogether. In the final stage – 5) Habitual burnout – people experience a persistent mental, physical, or emotional problem instead of experiencing stress or burnout occasionally. People commonly refer to this as depression.

The E.M.P.O.W.E.R. principles² can help us cope effectively whenever we are experiencing burnout symptoms. In the first step, 1) Evaluate: Examine and understand the expectations clearly. 2) My Story: We tend to make false assumptions and prejudices based on our fears and anxieties. List down our automatic thoughts, and use them as a guide to take them out of our decision-making process. 3) Priorities: Before starting any task, we should use the Eisenhower matrix to consider the task’s alignment with our responsibilities, the organization’s goals and our own goals. 4) Opportunities: The work we are planning to do, we should have a clear understanding on how the task can help us grow, learn new skills, or help the organization. 5) Who: The hierarchical position of the person asking for the favor/work. Being aware of this will help you choose how to frame your response if it should be “no”. 6) Expectations: This step aims to decouple our expectations from the expectations of the people requesting favors/work. We will reach a consensus this way. 7) Real: We all get the same number of hours in a day, so whenever we say “yes” to something, we are also saying “no” to something else. We must be clear that, if we overcommit, the quality of our work and life will suffer.

I hope the E.M.P.O.W.E.R. principles can help you overcome burnout and be more productive. Thanks for reading!



[1] https://www.winona.edu/stress/bntstages.htm

[2] https://hbr.org/2021/06/battle-burnout-with-this-acronym

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