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Leadership Development

Leadership Practices That Decrease Employee Burnout


Is Burnout on the Rise in Your Organization?

Stress in the workplace is becoming increasingly common, leaving many employees feeling overwhelmed and undervalued. Taking preventative steps to safeguard against burnout can help create a healthier, more productive environment for everyone in your organization.

The causes of burnout are numerous: An unmanageable workload, lack of role clarity, less communication and support from managers, and the additional stresses of worrying about safety and constant change. The good news is that you can help counteract these challenges by practicing and modeling these leadership behaviors.

Leadership Strategies to Guard Against Burnout

Burnout can be a real danger for any leader, but having the right strategies in place to guard against it will help them stay energized and effective. In their best-selling book, The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner provide a model that can help guard against employee burnout: The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®.

Model the Way: Employees' personal values play a big part in driving their commitment. Burnout can certainly occur if the stresses of change are not allowing leaders to live their values - such as overwork, not feeling supported, or not having clear work/life boundaries. Employees will be significantly more engaged if they both believe they can stay true to their values and if their manager/leader actively helps teams affirm shared values.

Inspire a Shared Vision: Employees who don’t know what success looks like and what role they play in that success are at risk for burnout. Not only do outstanding leaders have an exciting and ennobling vision to work towards, but they are also able to enlist their team members in that common vision. Each team member has a clear understanding of how their aspirations correlate to the leader’s (and the team’s) goal and what success means to the team.

Challenge the Process: To guard against ever-growing workloads and overwhelm, leaders can look to Kouzes and Posner’s Challenge the Process technique called “small wins”.

There are plenty of opportunities to look for “small wins” to encourage employees to re-frame and look at what they’ve accomplished and what progress they’ve made. In addition, leaders who Challenge the Process help direct reports focus on what they can control, instead of wallowing in the growing complexity and changing nature of our workforce today.

Encourage the Heart: Feeling supported and receiving frequent communication contributes to a smaller likelihood of experiencing burnout (nearly 70 percent less likely according to Gallup).

People want to feel valued at work and to know that their managers believe they are capable of getting the job done. Leaders who very frequently or almost always communicate their confidence in others’ abilities see their direct reports' trust increase to 75%, compared to 18% if the leader almost never or rarely shares their confidence in their direct reports’ abilities (Kouzes and Posner, 2017).

Enable Others to Act: To effectively engage employees and avoid burnout, leaders must create a climate of trust where employees can use their skills and judgment for how to get the job done.

Exemplary leaders are tasked with sharing knowledge and information, then encouraging direct reports to collaborate to complete projects. An excellent leader trusts that employees will take the appropriate amount of time to deliver good work and knows that the employee understands how much time is needed to devote themselves to high-quality work.

These leadership remedies, of course, are best when they are practiced throughout the organization and come from the top. But individual leaders can significantly impact employee engagement with their behavior, as Kouzes and Posner’s research in The Leadership Challenge shows: 95.8% of direct reports are highly engaged when leaders very frequently or almost always use The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®.

For a great overview of this Model, be sure to visit our Five Practices page to learn how to help your leaders become more effective and have a greater impact on those they serve.

Download an Overview of The Leadership Challenge

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash
Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.