How Managers Can Tell Their Boss That They Are Burned Out

It can be tricky to speak up if you don't know what to say
It can be tricky to speak up if you don’t know what to say
Image Credit: Drew Leavy

So how are you feeling? That pandemic thing took a lot out of managers. We had all of the normal things that we had to worry about and then we also had to make sure that the members of our team were keeping things together. Oh, and our family and friends were also dealing with the pandemic in ways that affected us. If you are like most managers, you are feeling overwhelmed right about now. In fact, you just might be feeling burned out. If you are, you should probably tell your boss that you feel this way. Do you think that you boss needs to know?

The Problem With Feeling Burned Out

More than half of workers who were surveyed said their mental health has degraded since the start of the pandemic, with rising workloads and blurred boundaries being the top culprits. Companies have stayed lean after layoffs, and the recent flood of team members who have become job quitters means managers who stay have more to do. Nearly two years of a global health crisis have left all of us feeling overwhelmed. The good news is that we are getting more comfortable admitting it.

What managers have realized is that so much was happening in the world that it has become ok to say, “Yeah I’m not good,” simply because nobody is good. More managers are open to saying, “I need help.” Still, we all understand that talking about burnout with a boss isn’t the same as talking about it with a friend. There is a real stigma around mental-health challenges. How can a manager get some breathing room, and back to feeling like yourself, without jeopardizing your career?

The first thing that we need to realize is that you don’t need to share just for the sake of sharing. The goal is to share in a way that you can ask for what you need. We need to assess what it would take to stop feeling overwhelmed, and think about whether you really require permission to get it. Would it be possible for you to attend virtual therapy on Wednesday mornings without telling your boss? What do you really need: different work hours, a deadline extension or a leave of absence? We need to speak up if we need to, and mention burnout by name if our colleagues seem supportive of diverging viewpoints and our mental-health struggles.

The Right Way To Ask For Help

When we go to tell our boss that we are feeling burned out, we need to keep it simple. We have to remember that our boss isn’t our therapist. For all the risk that comes with it, a lot of positives can come from sharing how you’re really doing – developing a deeper trust with colleagues, getting permission for others to open up, moving away from a pressure-cooker work culture toward something just a bit more humane. Who knows? You could end up being less miserable, and so could everyone else.

All too often our burnout can feel like a uniquely individual experience, as if we’re the only one who can’t keep pace. But researchers say it isn’t just you. Employees across just about every industry feel worn down and used up because what they are being asked to do is unrealistic. The backlog of tasks, the lack of resources – we all realize that this isn’t sustainable for long. There had already been a speedup in many jobs before the pandemic hit, and then all of a sudden we seemed to have turned up that volume. Let’s face it, taking a meditation session or a yoga class isn’t going to fix our problem.

Instead, team interventions are what will make a difference. When we have bosses who are trained to check in to see how we were doing personally and professionally, and to give us flexibility to work how we wanted, will result in managers who have significantly lower levels of burnout and psychological distress. Guess what: with this kind of support we are 40% less likely to quit.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers seem to always be living with a great deal of stress. However, the arrival of the pandemic pushed many of us over our limit. What had been a hard job become just about impossible. We found that we just didn’t have time, energy, or willpower to keep going. We were burning out. What we need to do when things like this happen is to reach out to our boss. We need to ask for help.

With the pandemic coupled with the number of team members who have been leaving the company, managers are feeling burned out. However, the good news is that it is getting easier to talk about how we feel. We are starting to feel more comfortable telling coworkers that we are not doing well. However, we still need be careful about what we share with our boss. We need to learn how to ask for what we need. When talking with our boss we have to keep it simple. Burnout is real and we are being asked to do too much. If our bosses can work with us, then our problems can be solved.

Burn out is a real problem for managers. We need to be able to find the courage to go to our bosses and let them know what we are experiencing. If we understand how to have this conversation with them, then we can find a way to deal with all of the stress that has entered our life. This is something that we should not put off, we need to do it today.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When do you think would be the right time to talk with your boss about your burn out problem?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let us all agree: not every meeting that you go to requires your presence. In fact, there may be a number of meetings that you attend that are basically just a waste of your time. The person who was setting up the meeting didn’t really need to have you there, they just wanted to make sure that they didn’t forget anyone who might be important. The downside of all of this is that your time is being wasted. What managers need to do is to find ways to avoid having to go to meetings that they don’t need to attend. How can we make this happen?