Updated: Jul 11
I know that many of you read the title of this post and said, "Heresy! — Carolon, have you lost your mind?” and “You don’t know my work culture. If I leave this place and go someplace else with a better boss and a better culture, then my burnout will go away…. Right?"
My answers are, “Maybe” and “Temporarily.” Sometimes changing jobs, even in the same company, is just the ticket to helping with burnout and sometimes it is just a band-aid. You see, if you just treat the symptoms and not the root causes, the likelihood that burnout will reoccur in the future is greater.
Yes, I know that effectively dealing with the root of burnout is beyond the individual employee/person and the individual leader. Effectively treating burnout means working on its root causes:
Working on our internal mind chatter and associated behaviors that cause the 24/7 stress treadmill and/or
Working with leaders to create burnout-resistant work environments AND,
Working with organizations to create work cultures that don’t burn people out.
Those are topics for another post. Today, let’s talk about your part in the burnout equation. Ugh…I can already see the eye rolls galore. I know what you are saying. “Seriously, Carolon, this is not my fault. It is this sucky job and this awful boss that I have.” Yes, and you play a part in this as well. So, let’s get to the root of that so that burnout doesn’t follow you to your new job.
Now, I know that, when I said that you should admit that you were a part of the problem, half of you just stopped reading, You felt the urge to close this post. Hear me out.
Although your awful boss and the toxic environment play a part in creating and exacerbating burnout, don’t leave the problems — and the solutions — in the hands of others. There are also things that we bring to the table that creates the perfect environment for burnout to occur. Here are just a few of them.
the must-be-perfect mindset
the “I need to prove myself” mantra
the “if and when things go wrong, work harder” thought process
Don’t ask for help, it’s a sign of weakness.
No one else does it as well as me, so I need to do it.
Which one or two or even all of those gave you that oh-so-familiar ping in your brain that says “Yup, that’s me”. Each of the things mentioned in the list above are thought processes and ways of behaving that spur on burnout. For example, when we think that we can’t make a mistake, we overthink things and don’t want to ask for help for fear of not looking perfect. The fear of not being perfect then keeps us in a cycle of doing more and overthinking our action. So what do you do about this?
With the above list in mind, grab a journal or piece of paper, and reflect on the following questions. Write down your answers. Don’t edit or filter yourself. Just write.
What benefit does holding on to this way of thinking give me?
What is it costing me?
What possibilities open up when you flip those thoughts? For example, what possibilities open up when you think “No one is perfect. I am learning. It’s okay to make a mistake.”
What actions would I take if I did not hold myself to this unrealistic expectation?
What is one baby step that I can take to remind myself to take a different approach in my next job?
Awareness of these thought processes is half the battle. It is an opportunity to make a choice. You can decide to do what you have always done, or you can choose to take a different action. Take actions that don’t allow these thoughts and behaviors to keep you stuck and fuel burnout.