man stressed at work

The Problems with Employee Burnout

Is employee burnout costing your company? Here, Ron Macklin discusses the problems companies face when employees are burnout and what to do about it.

Are people excited to go to work at your company? Are your employees contributing and engaged? Are they having fun?

We spend a majority of our time at work. If people don’t find that your company is a place they want to be, they might start “quiet quitting” - or actually quitting. And this can cost you. It takes resources and time to be able to find and train new employees. If your company is struggling to retain talent, you’ll lose your competitive edge in the marketplace. But, by noticing the signs of employee burnout, you’ll be able to step in and make changes that work for everyone - before you have a turnover problem.  

Before founding MacklinConnection, Ron Macklin led teams that set nine world records and won dozens of customer satisfaction awards. At Siemens, for example, Ron led a support division with 350 employees that was voted “the best place to work in Houston” by the Houston Business Journal. Twice Ron has created a growth culture responsible for increasing profits by $20 million, and has led seven different groups from worst- to best-in-class. 

Here, Ron discusses why employee burnout is a problem for your company, and what you can do to solve it. 

What is burnout?

Ron Macklin: Burnout is when you have a story that what you're doing is not what you want to be doing. You've burnt through all of your excitement and energy. There's a place where you can be immersed into something. You're working long hours. And you're enjoying it. That's not burnout - that's passion. That's fun. That's creativity.

From the observer on the outside, you can have two people working side by side, doing exactly the same actions. One of them is lit up about what they are engaged in. The other person is down because they do not want to be there. They're thinking, "I don't want to work here anymore. I don't want to be around this. This is killing me. I don't want to be here." That's burnout. You have those two different stories, even though the same actions are taking place. Those different stories that are inside your head impact what you're putting out into the world.

What does it look like when your employees are burned out?

Ron Macklin: When your employees are burned out, you'll notice a lack in the pace of creativity. You'll notice people don't seem to be having fun. There might not be any laughing or joking. There's no willingness to stay at work after the work's done. In some spaces, when work is over, people don't just run away. They are still catching up and talking and playing around. All of those are signs of immersion and passion.  But with burnout, when the work's done, they leave. Or if they're working from home, the moment they can, they turn off their screen. They have a story that they want to be someplace else.

Why does burnout impact a company?

Ron Macklin: Burnout affects a company so bad because it's contagious. When you are around people who are starting to burn out, it will spread. People will pick up the story. They will try it on. And when they try it on and they see grounds for it, they'll make it their experience too. They'll decide they don't want to be working there either. The creativity goes down. And people are now quiet quitting. We used to call it R.I.P. - retired in place. This means they're doing things, but there's no ambition. When you ask them what they're working on they say, "4:30."  They are just trying to get to the end of the day. They have no passion around what they're doing.

When your employees are burned out, you're not going to get production out of the people that are working for you. And this will spread and continue to grow. It will chase away your best employees. The people who want to do great things will leave if you don't do something about burnout. Burnout is like a silent killer for a company. Production goes down. Turnover goes up. Creativity goes down. And nobody's excited. 

What can a company do about burnout?

Ron Macklin: The best thing to do for employee burnout is let them go away. That could mean that they quit and go away. It could mean they need to go on vacation. When people go away for vacation for 2 to 3 weeks they come back full of ideas. I don't mean the American version of vacation where you go, travel the continent of Europe for a week and come back totally exhausted. We need real time away. We need time to rest. And we need time to play.

Fernando Flores created the 13 permanent domains of human concern. The number one is body. Makes sense, right? Without a body, what do we have? Nothing. The second thing is play. Brene Brown talks about it as well. As humans, we need to create and to play. Hobbies are not optional. People also need to be having fun at work. It's important to know the company is the place where people are spending a majority of their time. After work, people are only getting a couple hours to themselves. They spend most of the day at work. Work is where their life is happening.  So it is important for your company to be a place where they feel like they can contribute, create, and make a difference in the world.

This is one of the reasons why I believe self led teams will take over businesses. Self led teams don't let someone hide in burnout. Because everyone is contributing. And that's what we as humans want to do. We want to contribute. We want to do something bigger than ourselves. Self led teams give people a space to do that. Burnout takes you away from that. 

Allow Employees to Leave

Ron Macklin: I don't want anybody to be in a company that doesn't want to be in the company. And I will help them find the courage to leave, if that's what they want. It's scary out there to say, "I'm unemployed." So people will hang on to their job. And the worst thing you could do is try to find a job if you're unemployed. You want to find a job when you already have a job. So then you spend all your time trying to find a job while you still have a job - that's more burnout. So I help people to find the courage to leave their job. 

People are heading in a direction, but there's one person who doesn't want to go in the same direction, but also doesn't leave. He puts down an anchor and stops the whole group. When this person finally leaves, it's like cutting the anchor loose, and everyone can move much easier. This is why we got investigated at Siemens for letting too many people go and won an award for being the best place to work in the same year. When they investigated this they came in and looked at every person in every space. They came back and said, "Yep. Every one of those should be fired."

They didn't have the courage to quit. We gave them every opportunity to choose to be there. We put everyone on a performance improvement plan. And, after some time, the ones who still didn't want to be there quit or were let go. But with the performance improvement plans, I think we were around a 70% success rate. But that was our intention. We wanted every one of them to have success, which means they come back out of their performance improvement plan. They engage. They love what they're doing. They are excited to be there.

Is burnout a problem for your company?

Is productivity down at your company? Does it seem like employees are less engaged and not wanting to be at work? 

To combat burnout, it's important to notice your employees. Have conversations with people regularly. Be out on the floor with them. Then you can recognize if someone is getting burnt out. You're regularly looking to find out what's going on, so you can help your employees. 

If you are noticing a burnout problem at your company, you can schedule a consultation with one of our executive business coaches. We can work with you to find solutions to make your company a place people want to be a part of.