The Curse of Motivation Decay: How to Deal With the Threat of Employee Burnout

Motivation is a finite resource, a force of energy that exists both within an employee’s being, as well as beyond them. It’s the metric that tracks the direction, duration, and intensity of initiating and maintaining work productivity.

Motivation has been the catalyst for change in different areas. The focus on company culture, employee satisfaction, and work-life balance are all efforts designed to increase workforce motivation and productivity.

However, it can be difficult to generate and maintain. Motivation decays over time, especially if the workforce isn’t comfortable or satisfied. Stress leads to loss of productivity, which in turn leads to employee burnout.

Employees who experience burnout at work are rarely aware of the why and how behind it. The emotional turmoil and mental toll can be quite confusing. As the change is internal, employees often miss the source of their discomfort and wonder why colleagues, clients, and the work itself have become significantly more vexing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines employee burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” WHO goes on to outline the three dimensions to the phenomenon:

– Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

– Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;

– Reduced professional efficacy.

It’s the continuous accumulation of negative emotions, workplace stress, and mental exhaustion. An employee that experiences burnout at work is overwhelmed either by their work, their company, and its atmosphere or feel so pressured that they eventually spiral out of control.

Preventing and battling the burnout phenomenon requires focus and senior management’s initiative towards resolving one of the most harmful workplace problems. The collaboration between employees, C-level executives, and managers is vital to burnout aversion.

Are your employees at risk of burnout?

There’s a correlation between the burnout phenomenon and professionals in customer-facing roles. Employees such as teachers, doctors, sales executives, and social workers are in constant contact with clients and are expected to handle their queries, requests, and problems.

The effects of absorbing negative work-related emotions often manifest in the form of stress, depression, and an aversion to everyday tasks. This is why certain personalities are at more of a risk than everyone else. Of the four primary temperaments, those with a melancholic or choleric temperament are most prone to burnout.

There’s a psychological link between these temperaments and elevated anxiety and stress responses. Losing motivation often leads these individuals into a period of declining productivity and non-existent self-assurance.

What causes employee burnout?

There are many causes behind employee burnout and though conversations surrounding this topic outline different reasons at times, there are elements that remain consistent.

Here are a few of the most common burnout causes:

Lack of control. This pertains most to which aspects of the job your employee can control. Details such as schedule, assignments, workload, and time management can have a substantial effect on the workforce and the inability to make these decisions can lead to burnout.

– Unclear job expectations/goals. When the management fails to correctly detail their expectations, employees can feel discomfort in the workplace. The extent of an employee’s authority and influence are best defined early on.

– Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. If the company culture isn’t well developed, burnout becomes a very likely possibility. How the team interacts with one another, especially the managers and senior executives are a major source of work stress.

– Monotonous or chaotic work. Both extremes have bad effects on an employee’s mental health. When the tasks are monotonous or boring it becomes difficult to focus. In the same manner, when tasks are chaotic and overwhelming, employees end up spiraling out of control, their work suffers, and their productivity levels dip. This eventually leads to burnout and fatigue.

– Lack of social support. Isolation at work can also increase stress levels. This goes for both the professional scene and the personal aspect. Humans are social creatures by nature, and fighting that nature has a negative impact on our psychological state.

– Lack of work-life balance. Young professionals often overlook the personal aspect of life in favor of work. Time and effort are as finite as motivation, and spending all of that energy and focus on work, leads to its inevitable decay. Work-life balance is all about channeling energy into two different aspects of life. This helps alleviate stress and maintain productivity.

How to deal with employee burnout?

Thankfully, there’s a lot that employers and employees can do to prevent or eradicate work burnout.

Employees can:

– Engage the discussion: Employees who feel overwhelmed have the option of opening the discussion with their direct manager. This is a very straightforward way to handle expectations, make team-wide decisions, and compromise in order to set reasonable priorities and goals.

– Find support: Burnouts have a toll on an employee’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Support from colleagues, loved ones, and friends can be very helpful. Furthermore, this is an opportunity to work on your collaboration skills in the office and cope with the stress.

– Remember to relax: There are many activities that can help with anxiety and stress, form physical exercise to meditation. Regular physical activity helps manage stress and distracts from work.

Employers can:

– Evenly distribute tasks and activities across the team. This goes for the workload just as it does the responsibility.

– Monotonous work is the death of motivation. Alternate the workforce’s attention to a variety of different activities. A good approach would be to alternate between creativity-based work and recurring tasks.

– Be interested in the workforce’s rest and wellbeing. It’s always good to keep an eye on everyone’s vacation schedule. Try not to keep employees behind after a working day.

– Continuously improve the comfort and atmosphere in the office. Even the little things make a difference such as coolers and a coffee machine, comfortable chairs, and tables.

– Explore team-building activities.

– Be the source of motivation for burnout employees. Providing incentivizing rewards for success can be a major motivator. But the important part is to figure out why it happened and help the employee get past the hurdle.

– Conduct internal research routinely through surveys and questionnaires.

Though burnouts are easier to prevent than to deal with, employers generally have a blind spot for overwhelmed employees. Companies should run an in-depth analysis on a routine basis to make sure that no one is overloaded with work or is at a burnout risk.

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