Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Burnout Series: Like Totally Bored

I've decided to do a little series on job burnout. I have it- big time- and I think it would be helpful for people to know the symptoms so if you spot an employee with some of the characteristics of burnout, you can stop it in it's tracks by offering some helpful advice. I've read a couple of books that have some great insight for those future and current managers of people. One is called I Quit But I Forgot To Tell You which is all about burnout and the other is Make Every Second Count which has a little blurb about burnout. I think the "I Quit" book should be required reading for every manager new and old- she is spot on about cases where burnout has gone to the point of being irreversible. I think it's a little too late for me actually following her book- but maybe some of the insights catalouged below can help someone else. Instead of providing book reviews (read those on Amazon if you are interested), I figured I walk through some common symptoms of burnout and catalog my experience.

 

Burnout: Underworked and Overpaid

I know it sounds ridiculous but there have been many many times I have felt like I wish I could actually earn my paycheck. I wished there was more to do- There is actually such a thing as being underworked. I remember one job I had early in my career where the boss that was in charge of my tasks doled them out like sweet treats. He had a serious hang-up with delegation. Meanwhile I was facing a 9 hours day before I was done with my morning coffee and facing a serious burnout as I faced tedium the rest of the day. My worst fear in my jobs was not having enough to do. Working for myself I now face over scheduling myself. Know what to look for in yourself or  you team-- diagnose underworked and make sure there is a challenge to face with long term goals that keeps everyone engaged even in the downtime between business cycles.

Coming Around: Slice and Dice Your Manager

Solution: Call Him Out (or Her)-- If you are underworked then take some time to plan your next move- calling your manager on the carpet. If it's a case of not having enough to do, strategically ask for more work. Maybe there is a new program coming online that you want to learn about. Focus your request in terms that your management can understand. Let them know of the value you present and the skills that you think would provide return to the new project. If it's a situtation where you will continue to do yoru current tasks in addition to the new assignment make sure you address any fears you would have if you were in thier shoes. If you have the manager that refuses to delegate, look at their schedule for things you know could be done better. In my case I was reviewing the parts used to make up a certain optical element. I used some of my downtime to learn about the processes involved in coating and manufacturing the part and I happened across an approved supplier that made a part we could use that would improve performance at a lower unit cost. My  manager was thrilled, it opened his eyes a little and it resulted in work with more responsibility.

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