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Employees Burnt Out? Engage and Excite Them Again

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 8/12/2011

One of the worst things about on-the-job boredom and fatigue is that your best workers are those most likely to experience it. Don't risk losing your star employees to burnout. Turn things around before it is too late.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    Sometimes it is easy to diagnose job burnout and boredom. When an employee who is typically on top of every task starts missing deadlines, turning in substandard work or shrugging off responsibilities, you should consider whether he might feel exhausted and stressed out.

    A change in demeanor is another indicator. For instance, if a staff member who has always been polite, courteous and kind suddenly seems overly critical of others, hypersensitive to feedback and constructive criticism, or begins to experience angry or emotional outbursts, she may be feeling burnt out.

    Other signals include an upswing in illnesses, missed days and tardiness.

    Of course, any or all of these changes could be the result of anything from family problems to medical issues to substance abuse, so avoid jumping to any hasty conclusions.

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    Common Causes

    Knowing what can bring on burnout might help determine whether an employee is suffering. The triggers can vary based on an employee's personality and temperament, but there are some common origins of boredom and stress. Being aware of causes can help you come up with solutions, as well.

    Unrealistic goals and deadlines can leave employees feeling as though they are always running and never getting anywhere, causing exhaustion and frustration over time. Another common reason is the sense that one can never do enough, or that hard work goes unnoticed. Often, management and colleagues alike begin to expect more from staff members who continuously give their all (and then some) than they do from those who perform at a more basic level. These overachievers will come to feel burdened, stressed out and burnt out.

    Employees working in a field or position that is consistently high pressure by nature are likely to experience these feelings, as are those who are mostly isolated. Finally, employees who are often pulled in many directions or receive conflicting directives will eventually feel the strain.

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    Communication Is Key

    Make it abundantly clear to your employees that they can approach you to discuss concerns and issues such as feeling overworked, bored or exceedingly stressed out. If you notice signs of burnout, meet one-on-one with the employee who seems to be struggling and give her a chance to vent. Avoid offering solutions, at least initially. Instead, allow her simply to voice her frustrations, opinions and worries without fear of retribution and in complete confidence. Once you have a clear idea of what is causing these feelings, together you can decide what changes you should make.

    Group discussions can be invaluable as well, particularly if you perceive an overall sentiment of job burnout and boredom among your staff members. Hold regular meetings in which your team can share anxieties as well as ideas. Encourage coworkers to step in and aid one another in the process.

    Concise communication is also imperative when you are discussing job responsibilities and goals, deadlines and other expectations. For instance, if a project seemingly has no end or you tend to notify your team of impending cutoff dates of which they were previously unaware, burnout will likely ensue. Ensure that everyone involved knows who is responsible for what and by when, including as many specifics as you can.

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    Break the Monotony

    When people perform the same tasks day after day, week after week, they are bound to begin to feel like the proverbial hamster on a wheel. Mixing up the tedium can benefit your employees and your business at the same time. Teaching employees some -- or all -- of the typical duties of counterparts in similar yet unique positions can have numerous advantages.

    For instance, if the administrative assistant for your sales department learns some of the tasks of the assistant to your warehouse, they can help one another when one has a slower week, take on urgent needs when their colleague is away or even trade certain chores on occasion to get out of a rut. You may even discover that some tasks are better suited to other staff members' personalities and strengths, which can benefit everyone in the long run.

    Establishing enjoyable group activities and making your workplace more fun is another way to get away from the repetition for a while. If there simply is no time during office hours, arrange an entertaining get-together after work or on a weekend. Form a bowling team, take in a ball game or plan a picnic for staff members and their families. Employees who can laugh, be creative and enjoy one another's company from time to time will be better equipped to handle their workloads.

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    Offer Help

    Help Key On Keyboard Sometimes employees are overwhelmed and there is no easy fix for job burnout. In these cases, take ample time to study the big picture to determine the best plan of action. You may need to provide further training, readjust workloads and change job descriptions. It might be necessary to bring in help, either in the form of new staff members or temporary workers.

    Finally, remember your Employee Assistance Program. What seems like boredom and burnout could be an indication of a larger problem, and an EAP provider can deliver the most suitable help with complete confidentiality.

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