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How to Prevent Manager Burnout

A person with a cardboard box over their head

Manager burnout is becoming an increasingly common problem organisations are facing.

In fact, it increased by 78 per cent during the past year, with all the challenges brought by the pandemic.

The State of the Manager 2021 report found that 40 per cent of managers felt overwhelmed by their workload.

Additionally, 37 per cent said that the new way of working made them feel disconnected from their colleagues, and a similar figure reported facing conflicted work and home demands.

So, what can managers do to help themselves? How can they prevent themselves from joining those who are already suffering from burnout?

Let's begin by considering the possible symptoms of burnout:

  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness / concentration issues
  • Lateness
  • Procrastination
  • Exhaustion
  • Sickness
  • Lost passion / motivation
  • Complacency

What can managers do to avoid suffering burn out?

To answer that question, I spoke to Tienie Loubser, our learning and development director, and he shared some of the advice from our business coaching and management skills training courses.

He says that before you focus on coping mechanisms, it is vital to ensure you have the right team and management dynamic in place.

And there are three key areas to this:

  • Collaborative communication
  • Cohesion
  • Grit and determination

It may be that as a team you already have some of these attributes in place. We'll look at each one in detail and then show how they can help with manager burnout.

Tienie said: "As a manager, there are two things we focus on – people and task. You can have as many graphs and diagrams as you want about people, showing your high maintenance people, your low maintenance people, your key performers, and so on.

"And you can have graphs and diagrams on tasks showing agile working and waterfall project management, or just lots of Excel spreadsheets.

"But there are essentially three skills we need to focus on as managers and leaders to help ourselves."

Tienie says that the first of these is collaborative communication. "With this, I'm talking about setting and managing expectations clearly," said Tienie.

"I need to communicate clearly with my team so there is a clear understanding of what my expectations are and I need to know they understand what is required.

"In other words, it is your understanding of my understanding of what needs to happen. And we have to communicate collaboratively around that."

The second vital skill is cohesion creation.

Tienie says this is about being able to get everyone to work together as a collective, collaborating and allowing for the end product to be seen as a team result, rather than the effort of an individual contributor.

"This requires some ego management," he says. "It is about ensuring the result of the team is more important than the individual pontificating within the team.

"The more we have conversations about what the team has achieved – rather than individuals – the more we will have cohesion because everyone will want to work together regardless of the size of their contribution or who did most of the work."

The final key element is grit and determination.

"This is not just about focusing on the end result and getting things done," says Tienie.

"It is about starting again when things go wrong, being willing to try different ideas, consistently supporting your team when things are tough, and getting to the end, regardless of whether it takes longer or shorter than was originally anticipated."

Once managers have these three things in place, they should be able to have a conversation with their team about asking for help.

Tienie says: "Managers need to have the vulnerability to ask their teams for help. It is about saying to them ‘things are tough, I need your help at the moment'."

Once you have shown that vulnerability and have asked for help, there are a few simple steps they can take almost immediately to relieve some of the burden:

Rotate the chair

Let members of your team run meetings that you don't need to run. Let them take on that responsibility.

To do this, you need to manage your ego and your instinct to micromanage if things don't go the way you thought they would.


Instead of having hour-long meeting, reduce them to 45-minute meetings. Rather than having a 30-minute meeting, have a 15-minute one, and be succinct about what you want to achieve in these meetings.

Group v individual meetings

If you have a single faceted team, you can have a performance meeting with the people in it because they all have the same objectives. So, instead of having four meetings you now have just one meeting.

Yes, some one-to-ones need to take place. But that is more from a coaching perspective, helping someone to develop and grow.

But for a performance conversation, you can do it collectively.

Managers sometimes veer away from this because not everyone might be performing at the same level. But you can set expectations to a particular level, and people who are struggling may stretch themselves to get there because everyone else is doing it - and that then feeds into the cohesion creation Tienie discussed earlier.

Delegation is another critical area. This is something we regularly cover on our business coaching and management training courses, and it was also the feature of one of our recent blogs.

It is an area where many managers struggle.

Some fall into the trap of delegating only simple mundane tasks that offer people little chance to develop their skills.

And the other, more common, pitfall is to delegate tasks but to focus too much attention on those they hand them to.

This happens when the manager becomes afraid the employee will do the task wrong and that it will reflect poorly on them. They also worry they will have to pick up the pieces - effectively making the whole delegation process pointless and adding to their stress levels.

As a result of that fear, they feel compounded to constantly monitor and check on the progress being made on the task. They end up effectively micromanaging what they gave someone else to lead, resulting in no reduction to their workload.

The key is for managers to find the correct balance where they can delegate tasks to their team members that will keep them happy while freeing up more time for themselves to get on with other things.

Finding this balance is a skill that comes with experience and training.

Get in touch to find out how our training can help your managers avoid burnout.

The BCF group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.

We deliver training that makes a difference. Find out more about our business coaching, management training and interpersonal skills options.

Keen to find out more about business coaching? Get in touch to see how our Institute of Leadership and Management business coaching courses and bespoke training options can help. Or, click here to learn more about becoming a business coach to others.

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