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The Thing About Burnout Is...

“People are not respecting each other’s time or calendars. I think we need a communications training. Can you help us?”


“We need a training on managing remotely. Also, on how managers can help their teams not burn out. Can you help us?”


“We need a manager training. There’s a lot of burnout in our industry. Can you train our managers to have more empathy?” 


These are real requests I’ve received from clients, clients with good intentions who wish to make positive change in their workplace. They want to inspire better manners, more positivity, better feedback and communication, more empathy and positive behaviors. 

Yet the underlying issue here - ending the burnout epidemic - is not going to be solved just because someone does a training. 

That’s the thing about burnout: it’s a multifactored problem that requires a complete change in how people work. One or two trainings, even those offered several times over months to reinforce the teaching, does not end burnout. 

Trainings on professional and emotional skills are an important piece to solving the puzzles of burnout, absenteeism, presenteeism, and low engagement levels. Yet they will not do much - because to truly end burnout, you need to change the culture in which you work. 

Changing culture means changing individual behavior patterns. 

Changing individual behavior patterns involves groups of people talking to each other about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and it also involves everyone listening to each other

A great place to start might be with an empathy or active listening training. These types of trainings should make the point that to get to a place of better communication, it’s not enough to simply have everyone speak up - everyone also has to listen, with an open mind, to others. We have to assume truth in what others’ say, even when it doesn’t resonate with us. 

As a mediator, I often see people who have opposite truths - the team lead who sees abuse of power where another team member sees honesty; or the co-owner who sees financial balance issues where their partner sees dismissiveness. Both perspectives are true. Both perspectives are equally valid. The people who hold each of these perspectives need to acknowledge the validity of the other side. 

That’s really hard work! 

A training to get people to understand the importance of this, or even how to do it, or even to practice holding space for another person’s perspective - will only get you so far. 

And, it’s hardest to hold space for others’ perspectives when we’re caught up in our own, intense emotions - valid, human responses that happen at work all the time. Raising the bar on emotional intelligence at work is an important part of creating a culture where people feel valued and safe in setting and enforcing boundaries.

The best outcomes are when teams come together to discuss their values and their boundaries and how they work, then co-create agreements for new behaviors, and also discuss holding each other accountable for these behaviors. 

For larger groups, this will mean multiple facilitated sessions or even surveys plus focus groups plus facilitated sessions. The work can happen online or in-person, and some of it can be asynchronous, but some of it has to involve real time, live conversations where people literally hear each others’ voices. 

That’s how I can truly help you create a culture with less burnout: 

  • Trainings on empathy and active listening,
  • Trainings on emotional regulation, 
  • Surveys to identify commonalities,
  • Frank discussions of values and problems,
  • Facilitated sessions to create agreements on acceptable behaviors and holding each other accountable. 

And all that should probably be followed up by individual coaching (or at least optional individual coaching) to truly reinforce behavior change over months. 

While I have my own ideas and recommendations on values and behaviors that are less likely to lead to burnout, each group needs to create space for the discussions of what they want and how they want to be treated and treat others in order to fully buy-in to new ways of working. These are hard discussions even with great facilitators because facilitators create processes and space, but the group still has to do the work. 

Trying to have these discussions without a neutral, skilled, outside facilitator… that’s even harder. 

Burnout happens because of many factors, and many factors have to be addressed to truly stop it. Otherwise you lose great people who are truly attracted to your mission because they hate how they’re being treated, and they hate how they are asked to treat others.

Join us on December 9th for a frank discussion about resilience at work. Yes, I’ll give you some practical, every day tips - and also make it clear that they are just the tip of the iceberg! Join us live to find out why and how you can make it better.


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