Four scientifically proven ways to avoid team burnout

At 6:00 am the persistent sound of the alarm breaks the silence of your bedroom. Despite its stubbornness, a significant part of you keeps ignoring it. You just don’t want to get up, thus you remain intact under your bed sheets. That’s not because you had been partying hard last night. On the contrary, you had finished work late and were exhausted. You simply don't want to go to work. That work in particular. It’s draining your energy, leaving you minimal opportunities to experience what us humans love to feel: winners. Every single day you observe pretty close similarities among you and that hamster you saw in the pet shop striving for no apparent reason on its thread mill. You are experiencing work burnout!

So what can you do about it? Work burnout is a team thing…

On contraire to prevailing internet self-help guides (relax, take it easy, exercise, do that, do this, and do the other) there is nothing to be done but change your job. Unless you are a team leader or even better a C level executive. If you have a position similar to the above, then you can help prevent job burnout for your team and your team can help you in return. In order to do this, you need to establish a multi-directional support relationship among every member of your team including you. If this is achieved, then the team will be able to perform under a successful symbiosis at the workplace environment.

Let’s firstly take a look at what it is about.

Job burnout is a distinct sort of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about competence and the value of the work. If you think that your team is at risk of job burnout, then you certainly need to take a closer look at the issue. What you learn might help you confront the problem and prevent job burnout in team members’ performance, but most importantly, their health.

Burnout: Where does it come from and what can you do about?

The popular notion is that work burn occurs from excessive volume of work; however that is only a fraction of the truth. Research conducted by Drs. Michael P. Leiter and Christina Maslach, points to other sources of burnout at work such as:

  1. Lack of Control. Members of a team in the verge of burnout feel that they have no sense of control over what is going on. Lack of control becomes even worst when job demands are high.
  • How to fix it: In two words, offer choices.
    • Choices varying from physical space to code of dressing and code of contact. Work hours and work location. Letting members choose what works best for them. Through examining rules governing your team functions and limiting them to as little as possible. Many rules (often overlapping or contradicting) is the primary factor responsible for the lack of control. Have your team decide which rules are beneficial, and whether you do your part as a leader. Aim toward formally or informally taking those “no need” rules out. Now that sounds like a real utopia which will stop people from functioning right? Check the employ regulations book of one of the companies with the most spectacular growth Netflix. It contains only one sentence: USE COMMON SENCE.

In brief: Culture, not rules.

Are you getting it now?

2 Sense of community. The sense of community is a decisive work burnout stress modulator. Try to understand how sense of community is manifested in the day to day reality of your teams’ members. Then also set up action plans on how to improve sense of community within their teams that will positively promote a stress free work environment.

  • How to fix it: Make community (team) valuable by increasing membership boundaries.
    • What that means in real life is that only worthy members are entitled to be part of your team. The extent of that is that you need to work, probably with your team to an effective funnel for the non -valuable members as well as a replacement gate way. Working with your team members on increasing membership boundaries caries added value: It helps your members by offering influence, opportunities, increases sense of control (see above) and gives the notion that “we shape” the community (team).

    • Help members develop deep connection. Share passions, dreams and aspirations: Create opportunities to be open and transparent with others about your passions — and share, share, share! When we are open with others we send signals that we trust them with things that are personal to us. We bring people into our private space and trust that they will not harm us.
    • Connect Deeply through Peer Coaching: Put people together who may not be alike, enable them to practice sharing, discovering and peer coaching, and their lives will change. Research reveals that peer coaching is one of the most powerful forms of engagement between human beings.

3..Value Discrepancy. Value congruence is the extent to which the individual can behave at work consistent with their own self-image. It is very difficult to experience meaningfulness in our work if we are expected to behave in ways that are inconsistent with the highest values we espouse to ourselves and others. Value discrepancy has been researched as a leading cause of workplace burnout.

  • How to fix the value gap: Understand what value congruence is and check for it.
    • You need to identify the individual and corporate silent value gap. What the company proclaims to be its values might not always be equivalent to the day to day activities of your people. Offer examples with your behavior, explain don't sell. Don’t talk about values but have people experience them by pointing them out at each and every step of the day to day business. Finally, talk with your team members in a sincere manner and listen carefully to what they have to say. Try to connect to their seemingly irrelevant complains and inspect what the broken value behind them is. For example, when someone says he is overwhelmed and tired, that might mean that he does not get enough support or does not know where to get it from. That is in contrast to the value of team support.

4. Helping your people give meaning to their work. The perceived meaning and importance of work actions is a strong burnout inhibitor. The duty of an effective leader is to help team members develop the mental reasoning that connects work actions to what is meaningful and important to each and every person of his team.

  • How to fix lack of meaning. Help your members connect their actions to a higher purpose. Yes, yes that sounds like HR lingo right? Observe the difference between those two answers that cleaners gave to the question “what are your duties?”

Answer 1: I clean

Answer 2: I create sanitized environment that stops infections.

    • Again still very pose right? Now check the facts: Up to 60% (varying from country to country and geographical areas-Western world) of the infections that a patient might get are coming from within the hospital and are due to irresponsible cleaning of the hospital surfaces. Help your people thing and work on great things instead of insignificant details by attaching their work to ideas.
    • Favor givers and create a culture. According to research by Adam Grand of Wharton University, people can be categorized to three different categories according to what they seek in a professional interaction. The takers are people who, when they walk into an interaction with another person, try to get as much as possible from that person and contribute as little as they can in return, thinking that’s the shortest and most direct path to achieving their own goals. On the other end of the spectrum, we have this strange breed of people called “givers”. It’s not about donating money or volunteering necessarily, but looking to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached. These givers actually prefer to be on the contributing end of an interaction. Very few of us are purely takers or purely givers. Most of us however are somewhere in between. That brings us to the third group of people, who are matchers. As you might have understood so far meaning is in the giving style. By favoring givers in a team, you create a pro- givers culture team trend that will influence everyone. Finally, recognize moments with valuable meaning and help your people focus on that. What are the moments that carry meaning? The moments that someone is proud of themselves for something they did.

There is a special kind of person that can operate on the above four intangible but ultra-valuable assets, and it’s called leader, a real leader.

Are you?