Supervisory Leadership

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What is burnout?

Here's a quick summary of what I teach in my supervisor programs. Burnout is dangerous because it's a form of depression. At its worst it can lead to suicide. Fortunately that doesn't happen often. Here are some key points.

Everybody gets burnout to one degree or another and most of the time we pull out of it naturally.

An early sign of serious burnout is a change in language. You'll hear someone heading into burnout tell you that they always screw up, taking responsibility for a bad outcome and seeing it as universal. But when good things happen they'll talk about the good thing as a rare occurence and due to something outside themselves.

Burnout is reversible, but not treatable. This isn't a counselling issue. Most of the time it doesn't require an intervention.

When you spot burnout early enough, through those language cues and otherwise there's one thing that seems to work. That's changing the work situation. This might be a new assignment, attending an off-site training program, a special project -- something that changes the work environment for the individual.


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