Executive Burnout

30 January 2023

Executive burnout

Burnout is a widespread leadership topic that has grown in importance recently.

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a clinical condition resulting from extreme, unaddressed workplace stress and can affect both employees and executives. The hot question of 2023 is not if executives will experience burnout  - but when.

Dealing with burnout is a prevalent theme that appears not only in leadership development coaching sessions but also seems to be a major driver of senior managers wanting to change their jobs.

Commonly recognized as an emotional state where a person feels exhausted and out of touch with their work, burnout is also a well-known term in psychology and management used to explain why some people quit their jobs and look for new opportunities.

A recent Deloitte survey shows that nearly 70% of C-level executives are considering jobs that might better support their wellbeing. Although not on the same scale, we can say that our experience with executives confirms this trend.

Burnout becomes a serious challenge that may undermine the success not only of the career seekers but also of many businesses.

What needs to be done to cope with this new epidemic?

Knowledge about most typical signs and symptoms of burnout state is crucial. This can be a starting point for taking further actions or seeking and providing support. Physical symptoms like headaches, stomach-ache, neck pains combined with concentration difficulties, mental fatigue, impatience, cynical reactions, lack of motivation, anxiety and depression may be solid indications that burnout is there.

If an executive identifies these signs in their state and behaviour, a possible solution could be starting looking for a new job. However, if this new job is not in a less stressful environment, this solution could make the things even worse.

What other options are available?

Taking a sabbatical - a long break from work that will help executives recover from the work-induced stress. It can be paid or unpaid, and companies usually have a sabbatical policy that details the application procedure. Sabbaticals can help if the senior managers feel overworked or need some time to recover their creative capacity. However, if the burnout is due to some underlying issues in the team, or some personal reasons, it will be better to choose a different solution.

Downshifting - Starting a gradual process of changes that makes the work life balance easier, quieter, balanced, and much less stressful. This can happen by reducing work hours and/or responsibilities and may impact managers' incomes.

Working with a coach – taking this approach may help to constructively deal with burnout symptoms, identifying stress points and building new habits.

Finally, businesses contribution can make a huge difference. Prioritizing executives’ and employees’ well-being is essential for growth-oriented companies and building a strategic approach for prevention and support in case of burnout may turn out as significant competitive advantage.


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