Q&A: How Do We Recover From Workplace Burnout? 

In a follow-up conversation with Ashley Vogler (of the What’s Your Arena? podcast), we talked about 3 steps leaders can take to help their workplaces recover from burnout.  

Burnout has many potential causes. Unique life stressors come on the scene, draining our energy. Sometimes ‘burnout’ is more like getting stuck in a rut, which can signal it’s time for a change. In this post, we’re addressing one variety of burnout that’s especially common: conflict burnout.

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What does conflict have to do with burnout? 

Burnout happens when years’ worth of tensions go unresolved. (“I’m not appreciated.”) 

Burnout happens when weird things at work never get talked about. (“I just don’t trust him.” “He rubs me the wrong way.”) 

Burnout happens when frustrations pile up  (“Communication isn’t great.” “The system’s broken.” “I don’t have a pathway forward”) to the point of eruption or total apathy.

Burnout happens when conflict, left unaddressed, takes a cumulative toll.

And since conflict is going to happen (as we talked about last week), it’s in our best interest as teams and companies to figure out a better way to handle work tensions.

Thankfully, there’s a strategic way to manage conflict in workplace culture—before it becomes burnout.

But before we can heal burnout, we have to normalize conflict in our workplaces. 

That mindset is what allows us to take a first step forward.

Burnout Recovery in 3 Steps

On the podcast, Steve shares a true story of how one company healed its negative culture issues. That story brings the steps below to life. Be sure to give it a listen here

At its best, a workplace is where:

You enjoy the work you do and the jobs you accomplish.

You’re able to do that work in the company of people you enjoy doing it with.

Any time employees lose time, mental space, and emotional bandwidth to relational or functional problems at work, it’s a company-wide issue. (If for no other reason than those inefficiencies actually impact the financial bottom line of your business.) 

In other words: Burnout is a workplace culture issue

Once we see that burnout is a workplace culture issue, we have an incredible opportunity to put it out there and pool company-wide resources—to rebuild and reinvest together.

To correct burnout, we have to collectively reset. Here’s how.

1. Clearly identify and communicate the vision and values of the culture you want to create. 

Bring the team together. This is the time to redefine, clarify, and reiterate your company-wide values. Own the problems as a group. Revisit your mission. What are you working toward? Establish how you’ll communicate with one another (honestly, open, with respect). Paint a picture of the kind of workplace you want to be.

2. Model and keep communicating those values.

Provide training and reinforcement for your team towards that vision. The company described on the podcast calls it “relational hygiene.” Check in regularly with each employee and consider a regular cadence of conversations or training events that will help build and sustain a healthy culture. . Ask for feedback on your own execution of the values.

3. Practice accountability. 

Regular giving and receiving of feedback is crucial. Recognize and appreciate the wins. Don’t ignore or permit negativity. Often, employees who resist change will self-select when held accountable; they’ll leave, which is ultimately better for the team. If they don’t, it’s worth considering further action—one person working against the grain can undermine and disrupt an entire culture.

A Final Note: There’s Hope.

Maybe you’re not in a position of leadership. Maybe you can’t change the system yourself. Remember that you’re still affecting everyone you interact with, whether it’s one or 10 or 100 people. Your work matters. 

If normalizing conflict is the first step to recovering a burnout workplace culture, then the first step to personal burnout recovery is this: Recognize what you can’t control, and then decide to show up in the best way possible within your sphere of influence.

Don’t complain about what’s not in your control. Stay positive with people. Do what you can.  

There’s decisive hope in showing up this way. And hope is something burnout can’t touch. 

Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at admin@cstevebeck.com.