Burnout of employees: the basic principles of struggle, if you are a team leader

Translation of the article prepared in advance of the start of the course Team Lead 2.0.

Burning out employees in the IT field is not a joke. Anyone who is just part of IT believes that the issue of burnout is not very acute. But anyone who has worked in this area for several years (or, which could be much worse, worked remotely without agile, correctly assigned tasks, vacations and caring for employees) will confirm that burnout and permanent hatred of what you do is more of an everyday reality than an exception.

Research show that about 23% of employees experience a burnout almost all the time, and about 44% feel burnout from time to time. This means that about 2/3 of the employees are affected by this problem. And unfortunately, burnout affects not only work, but also personal life. All this together does not bode well. It is clear that everyone in the leadership is confident that burnout is an evil that needs to be combated. But at the same time, the authorities want employees to work with high productivity and be always inspired and happy that they work here.

So what needs to be done?

In essence, burnout is simply an overload of the same type and complex tasks that you can no longer cope with, and are not even going to cope with. You are no longer interested in work, opportunities, nor new and promising technologies, nor even the possibility of earning. In principle, I just want it all to end.

To help a person with burnout, it is necessary to give a vacation, change the sphere of activity from the current to a more interesting one, partially unload the tasks, but all this may not be enough.
Let’s give below the main signs that your team is now burning out:

  • Tasks that were performed well before, now require much more time and effort than before.
  • More complaints and poor customer interactions.
  • Bad teamwork. Prior to that, your team worked like a clock, and everyone was happy to interact with each other on working issues. Now each member of your team only thinks about how to get rid of their tasks as quickly as possible, no matter in the solved form, or not.

What methods of struggle can we choose to help employees cope with burnout and introduce preventive measures so that burnout no longer visits our friendly team? Give everyone a vacation in Bali for a few months

Do not associate work with an employee, and do not allow employees to associate work results with themselves

Everyone has problems and mistakes at work. The only question is how, in their comments and feedback, the bosses should personally connect this with the employee. He again made a mistake in the place in which he had already made? Yes, this is a very bad marker. But you do not need to blame the employee for this as a person, you need to find with him what is stopping him from working, as he should. There is no need to press excessively and constantly threaten dismissal – this also will not give employees any special motivation. Negative and toxic environment after some time.

  • or breaks an employee, and he becomes a “zombie” who seems to be doing something, but without a soul, and only what he is obliged to, without trying to spend at least a second more on his work,
  • or make the employee quit with discomfort from work and from the company as a whole.

Create an atmosphere in which everyone can get help while working well.

You need to build the communication process in such a way that the employees trust you, as a senior comrade and leader, who can be contacted on any issue, personal or work. Employees confidentially communicate both horizontally (i.e. with employees who occupy approximately the same position) and vertically (they are ready to contact a higher employee). And, more importantly, they are ready not only to talk about their problems, but also to hear the problems of others and make those efforts to solve them, as far as they can.

Plan your work steps carefully

It’s not a secret for anyone in IT that a well-planned project can be done quickly and well, and a badly planned one can be done either long and good, or poorly and quickly. On the other hand, there is constantly a need for new features and changes on the part of the user who only dimly understands what needs he needs from the business. Your task is to ensure that employees are not demotivated by constant alterations of an almost finished project. What to do? Turn to a good Scrum-master, think about how correctly you assign your tasks. You can do more if you calculate the load correctly.

What recommendations can you give employees if you suspect they are burnout and want to help them?

  • Advise to follow the regimen. Trivial advice, but it can also be an important detail. If the mode is completely lost, you can work for some time from home on a smaller pool of tasks, but to regain strength / complete your tasks more efficiently.

  • Advise to exercise and exercise. Few developers observe the exercise, but it is needed to make your body easier to bear intellectual stress. The human body is not adapted to sit for many hours a day in an armchair and engage in complex intellectual work. So it’s worth taking care of yourself when you go jogging / enrolling in a pool / gym (although, of course, it’s too lazy). If you don’t understand why you need to play sports while your body does not hurt, you should read an article like this. Yes, it looks more like an advertisement, but it’s all true – your brain needs a change of hormones and dopamine is needed, and for this it’s worth doing physical activity.

  • Try to find a hobby and allocate enough time for it to achieve a result. Best of all, if the hobby is not connected specifically with programming, games or other types of virtual reality. Because we can achieve greater efficiency only if we observe some balance. It is best to find a hobby that will be associated with working with hands (chips, carpentry, sports). Look at rock climbing so popular in the Valley! It’s great, you should try it! This will allow your brain to adapt better, because its different departments will be loaded accordingly, and you will immediately feel that you can do better in programming and in hobbies

Once again, we need to remember if you are a team leader:

  • Try to keep abreast of personal events with your employees – who has their birthday, weddings, and so on.

  • If possible, create a non-toxic environment where everyone can show their achievements and talk about their hobbies. A team in which everyone is a bright and capable personality is not at all where everyone perceives the other as a poorly working screw.

  • Do not forget that your employees are primarily people with their own strengths and weaknesses.

What should NOT be done if your employee burns out and starts to work worse than before?

  • Introduce additional sanctions, not taking into account the employee’s arguments that he is now overloaded.
  • Trying to solve the problem by changing the scope of activities that the employee may well be even further than his current one.
  • Try to get an employee out of his current familiar team and transfer him to another, hoping that this will work as a “refreshing” environment. It can only work if you understand what you are doing.

Instead of useful links by tradition, I want to give a list of books that you can read in your free time if you want to improve your qualifications as a leader and personal effectiveness:

  • “The magic of the morning. How the first hour of the day determines your success ”- by Hal Elrod. Many familiar programmers advised me on this book after they themselves took advantage of its advice and changed their lives for the better. Read, bad advice is not there.
  • “Motivation is 100%. And where is his button? ”- authored by Svetlana Ivanova. A classic of literature on staff motivation, every leader should read it.
  • Effective Communications is a collection of articles from Harvard Business Review. Not the easiest literature, more professional. But if everything else seems simple and obvious, you should try this series.

Learn more about the course Team Lead 2.0.

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