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How To Talk To Your Boss About Burnout

While it should be up to employers to play a key role in combating employee burnout, don’t wait for your boss to take the lead.
How to Talk to your Boss About Burnout

Even before Covid-19 struck, the World Health Organization declared burnout a legitimate syndrome linked to chronic workplace stress. And now, thanks to the pandemic, there is a whole slew of new stressors. A recent survey found that 41% of workers feel burned out due to factors like working remotely, working longer hours, juggling family demands, threatened job security, and fear of unsafe working environments. These have led to chronic feelings of sadness and anxiety, a lack of motivation, and an inability to concentrate. And the worst part—37% of respondents reported having done nothing to cope with these feelings.

While it should be up to employers to play a significant role in combating employee burnout, don’t wait for your boss to take the lead. Here’s some advice that will help you address burnout with your manager in a way that will benefit you both.

Don’t assume your boss is aware

Now that most Americans are working remotely, it may hinder your boss’ ability to understand that you are experiencing burnout. So, feel empowered to communicate it. According to Rhiannon Staples, CMO of Hibob, the people management platform, “Your manager may not be aware of how much is on your plate and may be open to working with you to offload some of your tasks, reallocate, or help you identify time management strategies so you can manage your workload more effectively. If you don’t speak up, they won’t be able to help.” It’s okay to show vulnerability; don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. Strong leaders understand that well-being is a priority and has an impact on business outcomes. They will want to work with you to help address the challenges you are facing.

You’re not the only one

Remember, many managers have been burned out themselves. In most cases, they’ll empathize with your situation and provide advice to get you back on track. Having an open conversation is also an opportunity to set new norms with your boss, like being transparent about your state of mind or saying no when you don’t have the availability. If opening up to your boss seems too daunting, start with someone else. Establish a standing set of virtual connections with friends, close colleagues, or even a coach or therapist. Having a few trusted sounding boards may even allow you to rehearse the conversation in advance. Practice communicating your concerns in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re complaining or blaming. And when you do have the actual discussion, schedule it when you feel calm, not frazzled. Make it clear that you’re asking for support and want to help find a resolution.

Come prepared with solutions

Staples also suggests coming to the meeting with suggestions. “When approaching the conversation, come to the virtual table with clear ideas on what you need and how your manager can support you, Staples adds. “You know yourself better than anyone, so whether it’s a mental health day, a shift in assignments, or support on a project, come not only with challenges but also with solutions.” Think about what you would like to change. Do you need additional resources or more time to focus on high-level projects? Whether you aim to communicate roadblocks or align on expectations, start with a specific goal for your meeting. Remember to focus the conversation not only on yourself but also on your team. By showing how burnout affects your productivity and the overall business, you’ll have a more constructive dialogue. Illustrating how much more impact you could have will make your boss more invested in helping you create a burnout recovery plan.

Take ownership of your health

Ultimately, it is up to you to take ownership of your well-being. Define your boundaries and make time for the activities that keep you balanced. Take regular breaks during the day to take a walk outside, complete a quick workout, or speak with a friend or family member. When working from home, it’s easy to stay glued to your desk all day.  Building in that critical personal time can make all the difference.

For some, the pandemic has caused burnout. But for others, it’s revealing burnout that already existed. If you can, take time off to gain some perspective. You may find that you’re ready to consider a job or career change. In any case, don’t let your symptoms go untreated. Through transparency and introspection, you can turn burnout into an opportunity to set reasonable boundaries that will benefit you in the long run.


Are you feeling stuck and unfulfilled in your career?  Download my free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Make a Bold Career Change!

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If you’ve been feeling stuck and not sure it’s time to make a career shift, download my free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Make a Bold Career Change!