7 HELPFUL STEPS TO AVOID BURNOUT IN YOUR TEAM
One of the issues with teams being in what I call, the Anxiety Zone, is while they can be great at getting things done to a high standard, there can be a big cost. And that is stress and anxiety that leads to burnout.
It's a big problem. A Deloitte survey of 1,000 professionals found that 91 percent of respondents say having an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration negatively impacts the quality of their work.
As you can see in the Achievement Zone Model below (from the book, Trusted to Thrive), Anxiety Zone teams are high in accountability and low in psychological safety.
Typically, Anxiety Zone teams are where the focus is on performance and not people. This can be due to a leader who pushes people to work long hours to get things done, is often critical or micromanages. It can also be due to difficult circumstances to complete work - resources are stretched and the team has to do the bulk of work in limited time.
The key to moving teams from the Anxiety Zone into the Achievement Zone is a leader who is committed to developing a more sustainable people-focused approach to getting results.
The reality is great teamwork can actually be amazing for our wellbeing, but really detrimental to our mental health when it's toxic. Anxiety Zone teams are interesting in that the leader can often avoid their team falling into a heap and use the challenging times to move more solidly into the Achievement Zone.
This requires leaders understanding that teamwork creates stress. Team members can often struggle with working with other people, get stuck when they don't know what to do or worry about letting other people down. If you have team members who are more inclined to be anxious or perfectionists, they will be more likely to operate in the Anxiety Zone.
First and foremost, leading with compassion and demonstrating that you care about employees is critical. One of the biggest drivers of burnout is people not feeling supported by leadership. Let's go through seven steps to show your team members that you care about them.
7 Steps to Reduce Burnout at Work
1. Provide the right skills and resources
A study by Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, a Senior Lecturer at University of Sussex Business School found that Achievement Zone teams had managers who were more likely to provide the right skills and resources to employees.
In Achievement Zone teams, employees were given time away from work to attend training and improve their skills in team working, communication, leadership, and problem-solving methods.
On the other hand, the data highlighted that poor performing teams revealed a different story. When employees were not given enough opportunities to develop their skills through training, they felt like they were not being treated fairly. The consequence was that it created a barrier between managers and employees. This showed up as constant disputes and feeling more stressed at work.
2. FOSTER Autonomy
3. ALLOW Input into DECISION-MAKING
4. Create End-to-End Responsibility in Teams
5. Communicate Clear expectations
6. Provide Meaningful Performance Feedback
Imagine you had to walk 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) in one day. Which of the following would you find more motivating?
A. How far you are expected to go and being kept informed of progress along the way.
B. ‘This is the long march you hear about doing,’ with no information about the total distance or how far you have travelled.
C. To march 15 kilometres, then when you reach the 14-kilometre mark you are told you still have six kilometres left to go.
D. To march 25 kilometres, then when you reach 14 kilometres you are told you only have six more left to march.
A 1982 study by D Eden and A Shani measured the importance of feedback through researching US soldiers during intensive training.
Four groups each received one of the instructions above. Group A, who knew exactly how they were progressing, had the best performance and least stress. Group C who thought they were marching only fifteen kilometres but were told they had a further six kilometres to go performed next best. Group D, who were given good news at the 14-kilometre mark, rated third best. While Group B, who received no information about how far they were going or their progress, performed worst.
We need regular feedback to inform us how we are tracking to motivate us to stay the course. Many of us need to feel that we are making progress and that our work is contributing to something important.
Measurement and feedback provide an important sense of momentum which is critical to increasing performance and motivation. They reinforce we are doing the right things or show us when we need to change our approach. When we don’t receive feedback, or receive it after an activity is performed, it negatively impacts our self-confidence and sense of achievement.
Many well-meaning leaders avoid giving feedback, either because they are uncomfortable raising negative information or they don’t realise the importance of providing progress updates.
To reduce stress in your team, after you have communicated your clear expectations of what good likes to the team, keep everyone updated on progress and how to improve.
7. Address poor performance or toxic behaviours
One of the issues that I commonly find in teams is when a poor performer gets away with low quality work or is able to be abusive to team mates.
Leaders who ignore these issues create an enormous amount of stress and are more likely to give license to the remainder of the team to perform at a lower level.
As mentioned in the previous article on team coaching, in weekly team meetings, encourage each team member to talk about what they're working on, their progress and what's keeping them stuck, in order to help everyone understand their contribution to the team.
Ensure employees understand that they have a role to play in ensuring the smooth functioning of their team. Work on connecting team members together, help them to understand each other's role to the team and reduce conflict. Make sure you quickly nip any negative behaviours before they become a really big problem in your team. This goes a long way to reducing stress and aligning the team to what's important.
Reducing Burnout at Work