Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Burnout Series: Martian Time

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: Operating on an Otherworldly Timezone

Can I Operate on Martian time? Have you ever wished you had just a little more time in each day? On those leap days when you gain an hour- are you that person that schedules something productive over sleep in that hour? A Martian day is about 45 minutes longer than our and a year there take nearly twice as long. If I could only change my time zone to operate on Martian time- I'd have about twice as long to get things done. if you find yourself going to the extreme to squeeze in that extra hour in lieu of things like eating a sleeping, you may not only be on the path to burnout but your family may not remember your name by the end of your next Martian year.

Coming Around: Delegate and Prioritize

Reschedule: Sometimes being overworked is because you are unable to delegate. So get to it. Start assigning pieces to the other members of your team. Schedule follow-ups with them to check on progress and so you can keep your finger on the pulse while they (and you) are handling the transition. Perhaps lack of delegation is becuase you just can't trust anyone on yoru team or maybe you are the one everythign gets delegated to. I think everyone has had a case of the lazy manager that blames you for thier failure or has had to work with someone you wouldn't trust the task of peeling a banana. Sometimes confrontation is the answer. There are healthy ways of addressing problem members of your team that are professional. Sticking your head in the sand won't make them go away and some progress is better than none even if the anxiety of the confrontation has you beat. Practice what you are going to say ahead of time. Take the role of the other member. Make sure your words are helpful, direct, and pointed at a path forward. Make sure you have an opporunity to get feedback from them during your talk. If the situation has progressed to the point that you need to address it at a human resources level, get someone from that department to step in the room as a witness and advocate for the cause.

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