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How Empathy Can Help with Employee Burnout

How Empathy Can Help with Employee Burnout

Hello again! We’re glad you’ve found your way back to the Pathway Blog, because this time we’re chatting about one of our favorite words: empathy. And, even better, we’re using empathy to deal with one of our least-favorite words: burnout.

Everyone gets tired here and there — that’s just life! But burnout is something bigger, especially in the workplace. It’s become enough of a phenomenon that there’s even an entry for it on the Mayo Clinic website! 

Mayo defines job burnout as:

“a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

What causes employee burnout?

There are a lot of things that can lead to an employee feeling burnt out, and sometimes that’s exactly what the last straw is: too many things piling on top of one another. Some common causes of burnout are: 

  • Excessive workload
  • Lack of control (feeling like they have no say in their job)
  • Dysfunctional individuals
  • Feeling unheard or alone
  • Lack of interest/challenge

The best way to deal with burnout? Prevent it.

It’s never too late to start being empathetically proactive when it comes to these things, and the best way to prevent job burnout is to learn and look for the signs. 

Employees who are experiencing burnout usually display:

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Increased, sustained irritability
  • Lack of interest in work
  • Increased absenteeism
  • More physical ailments than usual
  • Isolation from others
  • Exaggerated sensitivity to feedback

In order to notice these warning signs, it’s important to first make an effort to get to know your employees, so that you can gauge changes in behavior effectively. Establishing a structure or check-in schedule each month can go a long way toward keeping your employees feeling valued, challenged, and engaged. 

The next step is open, honest, approachable communication. Sometimes having an employer reach out is all it takes to turn someone’s burnout around, especially if the source of their burnout is feeling underappreciated or unheard.

How do you mitigate burnout once it’s already happening?

If your employees are, in fact, experiencing burnout, the best way to mitigate it is to listen to them with empathy. 

Here are a few tips for doing just that: 

  • Go into the conversation with the intent to listen, rather than respond. So often we enter conversations already thinking about what we’re going to say. If you can focus as much as you can on listening to your employee, you’ll have a better chance of actually hearing their concerns.
  • Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. This is one of the core tenets of empathy; envisioning yourself in the place of the person you’re trying to connect with. Can you see where they’re coming from?
  • Show them you’re listening by acknowledging what they’re saying, rather than trying to dismiss their feelings. 
  • Ask them about their work. Is it too much? Is it the wrong kind of work?
  • Discuss expectations. Make sure everyone’s expectations are both understood and realistic.

Empathy = Growth

The bottom line is that employees who feel appreciated, reasonably challenged, and heard are far more likely to be productive and efficient. How can you take steps toward avoiding burnout within your organization, starting today?