Corporate Burn Out

burnoutRecently New Zealand Prime minister Jacinda Ardern quit her position citing burnout after 6 years of intense hard work. I have quit a very well-paid job in the past because it was so full on, not just having to learn new technologies every 6 months but having to negotiate with the values of the IT industry which just didn’t gel with mine.

Some symptoms of burnout

  • Feeling of lack of control / helpless /defeated

  • Tired and fatigued a significant part of the day

  • Negative view of the world

  • Heightened anxiety around other things, like driving

  • Self-doubt

  • Lowered performance

  • Procrastination

  • Concentration/processing issues

  • Loss of enthusiasm for work/study

  • Sleep issues – awake for hours or fielding calls in the early hours because of time differences

  • Mood changes/irritability

  • Loss of interest- friends/family/social

  • Not being able to decide

Not being able to decide is a big no-no for any boss, so is “Should I stay or should I go?”

Before making that decision, just stepping back from it for a period will help clarify matters. If there’s no one to do your job whilst you’re recovering, perhaps the first thing you need to find is someone or a team to shoulder some of your own responsibility.

Case Study 1 – Losing everything to burn out

Burnout happens at any age
Stress at work is one of the most common causes of burnout

Ben was in partnership with a family friend, both directors of a service company. They had teams of staff under them and equal shares in the company paid through dividends. Ben repeatedly headed up all the major decisions of the company because the other director was always absent. He found the responsibility exceedingly stressful and after spending a weekend away, came back to work to find an email suspending him. Ben broke down and couldn’t function, his entire world had collapsed around him. When he came to see Penny, he had already had massage and counselling, but he couldn’t get his anxiety in check.

Understanding burnout helps

Penny explained they had taken his security from him. He had family responsibilities, a mortgage to pay and left with nothing, even fighting a court case over the shares in the company. Everything he was feeling was down to a basic need not being met.

Just explaining this to Ben allowed him to take hold of the anxiety and refocus his efforts on a new project. He’d also agreed to be a director in a friend’s company, but now, having assessed everything from a distance of time, he turned them down just to focus on only one thing.

Case Study 2 – worldwide problems

CE was a director of a worldwide company with staff in Australia, the USA, India, the Middle East, and Singapore. She would field phone calls from managers at all times of the day and night and had been doing so for over 20 years. She originally came to me with anxiety about riding her horse, which had been progressively getting worse over the past 6 months. Her driving too was becoming a problem too.

Once Penny explained how the brain worked and how we deal with stress in the way of “Stress bucket,” she totally understood what was going on. She had had therapy before the pandemic but hadn’t fully understood why she was feeling the way she was. She recognised that she had corporate burnout.

Now, we worked on ways for her to have time out and start relying on other members of staff to do their jobs without her having to micromanage them. I introduced her to Mark McKergow’s principles of solution-focused work and encouraged her to create teams of problem solvers.

This is the lovely testimonial she wrote:

I found Penny on the internet as I was having issues when horse riding. Anxiety was holding me back. I’ve had anxiety issues for the last 5 years and have worked with a therapist.  I just hadn’t quite broken completely free of anxiety and the fear of the anxiety not going away. Penny pointed out a number of areas where anxiety was affecting me. She was able to help me understand the way our bodies deal with stress. This now allows me to systematically work through what I do. the triggers I have and how I can mitigate the anxiety rearing its head. I have had 7 sessions with her and I have not felt this calm in years. She has helped me review how I work. Highlighted how important it is to have downtime and has helped make me a happier person. I also feel reassured that anytime I need her, she is there! Highly recommend!