Best & Brightest Burn Out Fastest

The Globe and Mail reports that those who shine the brightest in the workplace are also those most susceptible to burning out – and that risk is growing for Canadian executives.  “A prime factor that drives people to burnout is feeling that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it,” according to psychologist Dr. Michael Leiter, director of the Centre for Organizational Research and Development at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.  Many executives are feeling that pressure as never before.

A survey released Tuesday by the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found employees with the greatest responsibility are facing the highest levels of job stress.  In the survey of 2,737 Canadian workers, 18% reported their job was “highly stressful.”  The odds of having high stress were greatest for managers or professionals, if they thought their job performance could negatively affect others, or if they worked long or variable hours.

Chronic stress leads to burnout, and can worsen existing mental health problems or physical disability, the research warns.  “The people who report high stress are the ones most invested in their jobs.  Employers should be very concerned with keeping this population healthy. From a business perspective, it is in a company’s best interest to support these workers.  Most organizations are more lean than they were before the recession and top people have fewer staff to delegate jobs to.”

Avoiding burnout requires discussing the risks openly in the workplace and placing limits on expectations.  One of the illusions people have is that putting in more hours will make them more productive.  Doing that will tire you out and make you sick, and when you are sick, everything becomes more difficult, Dr. Leiter said.  Executives have to make a decision that there is only so much that they can do, and eliminate or delegate work.  Also, reflect on what you are accomplishing and what needs to change.

“You don’t necessarily throw out your core values, but look at reality and the opportunities you have to let go of old ways of doing things and reduce your stress.”