The contemporary workplace creates lots of difficulties and stresses. Robust competition drives down margins. In the quest for productivity and profitability, businesses in the competitive marketplace are doing more for customers, while employing fewer resources. Deadlines are tight, and customers and clients demand results.
The tightening constraints of the marketplace increase burdens on management and everyone involved in the workplace. Professionals who are just worried about the next step in the process, the next hour and getting through the next day without a plan – without considering priorities and thinking about the end result – will find themselves on a constant treadmill of stress, which leads to exhaustion.
We’re talking about burnout, a state of exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy, reached after experiencing a period of sustained, unending stress. Burnout is a serious affliction that’s common to high-stress environments, which can have serious mental and physical side effects. How can young professionals deal with burnout? Here are our thoughts and observations.
The Road to Cynicism
Low trust environments create cynicism. Trust is diminished when a professional begins to question and doubt the intentions or the competency of fellow team members, customers and clients. Successful business relationships are based on the premise that both parties benefit from the relationship. When one party believes that the other party is not living up to its end of the bargain, trust is diminished and the seeds of cynicism have been planted. When a professional has reached the point of exhaustion and cynicism, all the motivation to perform work is spent, and the result is inefficacy. Discouraged and unmotivated, the professional has difficulty picking up tasks and finds it easy to put them down. Exhaustion can be caused from within or without. Employers or clients can create unreasonable expectations and overburden professionals. However, professionals often can overburden themselves with work or feel swamped unnecessarily by failing to prioritize, delegate work or plan. If a professional has reached the point of exhaustion, the first step is to do an assessment of the situation and understand the source of the problem. The same is true with cynicism. Professionals who have reached the point of cynicism should assess the source of it. Are they living up to their end of the bargain to make sure that they are meeting the expectations set out in the agreement? Are clients and employers not meeting their end of the bargain? Discussing these issues with a trusted person may provide some clarity.
Strategies to Combat and Avoid Burnout
If you are experiencing burnout, take steps to relieve yourself of it. If the burnout is self-inflicted, modify your behavior and work habits. Prioritize your work and shed yourself of it if you are taking on too much. Delegate work down, learn to say no and set realistic expectations of yourself. Perfectionists are especially prone to burnout because they feel they must take the work on for it to be done correctly. If you are not living up to the expectations of your employer or your clients and customers, reassess those expectations to see if they are realistic and if you are capable of meeting them. If you feel your work and effort are not appreciated, learn to appreciate the effort of others. Gratitude is contagious. We develop relationships with the people we work with. Take the time to enjoy and deepen those relationships. Break bread with your team members at lunch, as this will lead to conversations on topics outside of work. Find areas of common interest. If you enjoy the company of those you work with, you will build trust among your team members. This may help combat cynicism in the workplace. Find meaning in your work and in your life. Consider the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of work. To remain happy, professionals should experience some intrinsic pleasure and pride in their work. However, intrinsic benefits may not always be sufficient to remain motivated. Make it a point to have some extrinsic enjoyment of work; treat yourself and your family to the fruits of your labor. Plan an activity for the weekend that will take your mind off the stresses of work for a couple of hours. Plan a vacation after a busy period of work to recharge and recoup, but don’t decide on a whim; most of the enjoyment comes from the prospective enjoyment. Leaving on a whim at the last minute steals that prospective enjoyment. Ultimately, each individual is responsible for his or her own health and well being. It is up to you to avoid burnout and create enjoyment in life. Begin going down that road today.
Kristin A. Ryan, CPA, is an audit manager for PKF Texas. Contact her at (713) 860-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org