Thursday, March 3, 2011

Burnout Series: Why Am I Here?

Sorry for skipping a week-- I was busy... well... quitting my job. I'll keep discussing job burnout not only becuase I've been there but have helped others before I burned out to avoid situations I knew wold lead to disaster.


Background: 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.

The feeling: I contribute to nothing. I can't imagine that job I hear of at the prison yard that consists of going outside to break rocks. The task has no end and no purpose- it's just there to consume your time and energy. I can't tell you the number of people I see that look constantly lost while on the job. I had this one job during high school as a telemarketer. The job was to sell credit cards with horrible terms to people at the end of their rope. They had either just lost the spouse with a credit history or had suffered through a devastating divorce. The job was there to take advantage of their situation and sell them a card with terms that would make a normal family blush. That job left me feeling so worthless at the end of the day. I felt as though I'd been through a day of manual labor and I had trouble sleeping. I very quickly removed myself from that situation but there are lots to folks that go back and clock-in day after day at jobs that leave them demoralized. Wake up! Get snappy and get some training or temporarily put your life as disease as you work your way out of a situation that will leave you with nothing but a series of health issues. If you are burned out at a job that sucks your self-esteem- there's not a paycheck in the world that can compensate you for that.


The solution: Well unfortunately my solution for this one is... Get Out of Dodge: If your job is so bad that you would be embarrassed to tell a friend what you work on- maybe it's time for a fresh perspective and a new job. Look internally to your company for department shifts you could manage. Sometimes this may require a temporary change in pay while you work your way up in a new department. If your values are at odds with the company as a whole, take a look at another employer. Find other ways to absorb any potential cut in pay. Maybe your commute will be shorter cutting down on transportation costs or the hours are more flexible allowing you time to do more cooking and less dining out. Carefully plan your departure and new job, You don't want a resume that makes you look like a bouncing frog so make sure you are making a change for the right reasons. You also don't want to burn bridges with your current employer. Chances are down the line they will be called to provide reference for a future job opportunity. Don't have them recall you as a wild-haired cackling madman squealing out of the parking lot screaming, "Freedom". Keep your emotions in check and plan your next move thoughtfully with without malice.

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