how to spot burn-out on your team — and what to do about it

If you see a good employee’s work starting to plummet, or someone suddenly getting frequently emotional, or someone having a noticeable drop in enthusiasm for their work, you might be looking at burn-out.

Here are four key signs of burn-out to watch out for on your team, and what to do if you spot them.

1. A good performer’s work plummets – and the drop is sustained. Everyone had bad days, even bad weeks. But when a good employee’s work quality or productivity dips and stays there, something’s wrong. It’s not necessarily burn-out; it could be something going on in their personal life or even a medical issue. But it’s worth reflecting on whether burnout could be at the heart of it, and talking with them to see if you can figure out what’s going on. For example, you might say, “You’ve always been an excellent performer. For the last few months, you’ve seemed distracted and your work hasn’t been the same as it used to be. I know you’re talented and your work ethic is excellent, but I also know lots of things can impact people at work. Is something going on that you’d be willing to share with me?”

2. The person looks exhausted all the time. Hey, we all get to look tired now and then, and when it happens, we usually don’t want people commenting on it. But when someone is consistently looking worn out, take some time to think about their workload and the last time they had a vacation (meaning real time off, where they truly disconnected – no answering work emails while away). You can also talk with them about how they’re prioritizing projects and how they might push some things back if needed.

3. The person has a noticeable drop in interest and enthusiasm. If someone who used to be engaged in meetings and seemed invested in their work starts to seem disengaged and uninterested, something’s wrong. Burn-out often manifests like this because the person no longer has the emotional energy to stay invested – sometimes because they’re convinced it won’t matter (possibly because they feel that in the past it hasn’t made a difference) and sometimes because they’re just exhausted. In this case, you might check in and see how the person is doing, and try to make it safe for them to open up if they are indeed feeling burned out.

4. The person gets much more emotional, and more often. If an employee who used to have a relatively even keel is suddenly getting easily upset, frustration and burn-out could be the cause. Burn-out can make people’s “immunity” to normal workplace stresses very low, which can leave them upset or even teary much more easily. If you notice that someone is getting emotional and upset more often, try asking what’s going on. You might say something like, “I’ve noticed that a few times lately you’ve seemed very upset by things that I don’t think would have impacted you that way a year ago. I know that can be a sign of frustration or fatigue, and I’m worried about how you’re doing.”

So what if you do have a burned out employee?

  • First, be brutally honest with yourself about your management style and whether it might be contributing to the problem. For example, do you email people at all hours and expect quick responses, say things like “just find a way to get it all done” when someone is concerned about their workload, or discourage people (explicitly or more subtly) from unplugging from work on weekends and in the evenings? Do you create a positive culture where input is welcome, or are people working in a tense environment where over time they might become cynical?
  • If the person’s workload is too high, help the person re-prioritize. Can you delegate tasks to someone else, shift due dates back, remove work from their plate altogether, or otherwise find them permanent breathing room in their schedule?
  • Push people to take time off – real time off, where they fully disconnect from work.
  • In extreme cases, consider whether it’s possible to give the person an extended break – longer than the typical one or two weeks of vacation.

{ 90 comments… read them below }

  1. C Average*

    This was me back in May when, after much soul-searching, I decided to quit my corporate job and become a full-time at-home stepmom, writing freelance as the opportunity arose. At the time I left, I could’ve checked every single box you listed. In the rear-view mirror, it’s absolutely clear to me that I was burned to a crisp. I think a different manager than mine probably could have helped me turn things around.

    Pay attention, managers! And if you see this stuff happening and ask your employee if they think they might be burned out, don’t accept a simple “no, I’m fine” for an answer. A person in that condition may not be able to self-assess accurately.

    (By the way, I am enjoying the writing life. I’ve completed the first draft of my novel and am doing revisions. I do a magazine piece here and there. I mostly take care of my stepkids. I don’t miss my job at all, not once, not for a single second.)

    1. Jerzy*

      I’m working out a plan to move from full time to part time, due to being burned out. It’s not all my job, but working full time, raising a toddler, and taking care of a house is all too much. I sometimes think quitting all together and freelancing a bit might be a better way to go, and I may get there eventually.

      Glad to hear you made the right move for you.

      1. Winter is Coming*

        This was me about 15 years ago. I ended up transitioning to 32 hours/week, working four 8 hour days. It worked out beautifully…the 20% pay cut obviously called for some adjustments, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Kids are nearly grown, and I’m back to full time. I do miss my Fridays off though! :)

      2. Clever Name*

        A coworker of mine went to part time due to burnout, but didn’t work out a plan to reduce her workload, so she was still working 50 hour weeks. She eventually quit with nothing lined up. :(

  2. Rebecca*

    This is me. My manager is blind to this. I have gone to her over and over, but we’re understaffed, no help in sight, and I’m ready to walk, job or no job. Her mantra is “I will never tell management I can’t take on more work”, only she’s not the one trying to do it. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, and her solution is to assign help in the form of other overwhelmed and exhausted coworkers, and to tell me I need to do more thinking about X, Y, or Z. I don’t have time to think. I barely have time to go to the bathroom. It doesn’t help that she hired someone who wasn’t a good fit, and now won’t get rid of her 2 years later because she’s worried that this person has a house and car payment. And the other person she hired that could have worked out, but had bad training, so she ended up getting let go. I just don’t care any more. My focus is finding a new job so I can get out of here.

    1. Crazy Dog Lady*

      I’m right there with you. Everyone on my team is afraid to admit when they’re overwhelmed out of fear for looking weak. Instead, projects fall through the cracks and morale drops. I do speak up and am told that everyone is busy. My manager promised to add to the team to help alleviate work; the person she hired is a poor fit and was assigned to cover an area that barely has any work. I am looking for a new job….

  3. Sharon*

    Here’s a “what not to do”: don’t just assume the person has a bad attitude and put her on a PIP.

    1. Disillusioned Minion*

      But this is exactly what managers that drive their direct reports to a burnout will do. Moreover, the goals on the PIP will be impossible to meet since the employee is already burned out.

        1. Ethyl*

          And when they flat-out say they are burned out and need help, don’t say “well, that’s just how the job is, too bad.”

    2. Perse's Mom*

      Yep! This happened at OldJob, which was an incredibly emotionally draining job and I was one of 2-3 people doing the worst process. The conversation around the PIP involved promises on the manager’s part that more people would be trained to do the worst process so the emotional drain could be spread out and I could have a break, in the hopes that I could ‘stop being negative.’

      Weeks later, still doing the worst process, but finally training someone to help… and manager comes back to get the trainee to help out in another area so that the manager could go home on time. Which… left me doing the worst process on my own yet again, that night and the next. Somehow I was still shocked when I was let go a few days later.

  4. asteramella*

    This one hits close to home… I’m rapidly burning out. I’m trying to at least *appear* less disconnected and exhausted than I feel, but you’re right–appearing enthusiastic takes a lot of energy when you’re not truly excited and you feel like it didn’t make a difference in the past.

    1. Anon for too much identifying info*

      The accountant and I (HR) are both burnt out in our small company. We went from ten management staff members at the beginning of the year to six, and the general manager just had an emergency operation and may have had a mild heart attack, so we don’t know whether he’s coming back or not (he’s only in his mid-40s). The accountant has been working nearly every weekend for over a year just to keep billing and payroll covered. She is so burnt that she just walked out at noon today. The owner (who rarely every sees us) keeps taking more and more money out of the business so there is no money for more staff or raises. The only thing keeping the accountant and me there is our ages (mid-50s to mid-60s). Unfortunately, she needs to work for another five years, and I need to last at least fifteen before we can possibly consider retiring.

      1. misspiggy*

        Really sorry to hear this. I hate to say it, but it doesn’t seem like this business is likely to last fifteen years. I’d be doing a lot less unpaid overtime and more networking with friends and job agencies for other opportunities, just in case something comes up. You just never know, and it’s certainly not worth spending so much time on this job that you have no energy for jobsearching.

  5. Dasha*

    “The person gets much more emotional, and more often” That’s so me right now :-/ I’m hoping the holiday break helps…

    1. Blurgle*

      I’m sort of wondering if the employee in today’s other question is experiencing burnout, and it’s expressing itself in an obsession on disaster news.

  6. Anonymous Educator*

    A great list. Can I add a #5?

    Your employee tells you the workload is unreasonable.

    I did that at my last job, and my boss continually made it sound as if he was going to do something about it… and never did. I ended up quitting. I was basically doing the equivalent of three full-time jobs, and I let him know that. Sometimes, you just have to listen.

    1. Rebecca*

      This. I have told my manager over and over I’m overwhelmed and my workload isn’t manageable. Her response is “well, you and everyone else”. OK, then hire some competent people to help!!

      1. NGL*

        When I made this complain to my last manager, he had two responses:
        1) I was overworked because I was more ambitious than other people on my team, so of course I had more work! (Thanks…?)
        2) Sure, he COULD take some of my workload away, but how else was I going to be noticed by upper management?

        I lasted about 4 months under that manager (I was already well on my way to burnout before he came on board, he just hastened the process).

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I’m in this position now. I didn’t realize how bad it was until multiple people remarked to me, “you know you have two full-time jobs, right?”

      When I raised this with my boss, she said, “well, this is the position you agreed to.”

    3. NicoleK*

      I told my boss that my team is overworked and overwhelmed. Instead of solutions, she gave me obstacles. She denied my request to hire an additional staff. I then asked her new hire (supposedly she was hired for her process improvement experience) to review workflow and processes. That help never materialized. Lastly, I had my support admin take over some of the tasks. Now, boss wants my support admin to help out elsewhere.
      Boss also seems to think my team members aren’t busy and have alot of time on their hands. I’m all out of ideas and now I’m leaving because I don’t have the resources to be effective at my job (and a host of other reasons)

    4. That Marketing Chick*

      Ditto. I teared up in front of a co-worker yesterday when he came over to ask for my help on something. That point at which if someone asks me for one more thing I’ll snap? I’m there. The good news is that we’re interviewing to add a person to my department…the bad news is that it’s dragging along very slowly. I don’t think they truly understand that I am doing the work of four people.

  7. BRR*

    This is applicable to me and I’m new :(. The problem is my manager is burned out as well. Our team in the department can’t count on others to get stuff done so we’re all burned out. Meanwhile the people who we can’t count on are fine.

    1. AnonymousaurusRex*

      This sounds to me like the cause here is a management issue, rather than just a burnout one. . .

      1. BRR*

        There is a management/organizational issue. I’m at the beginning of a big culture change here. I wish I came into it a little later.

        1. Liza*

          BRR: Ooh, would you be willing to talk about that culture change some? Is it something the company is doing on purpose, or do you just see it changing? How can you tell? (I’m working on an MBA and just finishing up a class where we talked a lot about organizational culture, so I find it really interesting now. OTOH, if your job is leaving you too drained to want to talk about it, then don’t!)

  8. SJ in PA*

    Me me me. I’m applying for other jobs, but I’m finding it so hard to stay focused and proactive in the meantime. What’s the point of working my butt off just to be told for the second year that I won’t get a raise, despite my glowing performance reviews, and be part of an office where one of my bosses just throws up his hands and says “there’s nothing I can do” regarding a horrible coworker? I’m certainly finishing all the tasks I need to do, but I’m not bothering with the cool extra projects I used to do that supported the office. I just don’t care.

    1. SJ in PA*

      Not to mention that when I discuss my problems with the work environment with my boss, he just says, “Ugh, yeah, me too!” and complains about this or that. Yeah, I get that his job is tough, but he’s the boss, makes way more money than me, and he’s the one with the power to change things. I don’t really care about his bad day.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Yeah, I’m with you.

        It’s hard to really appreciate the boss’s “woe is me” or half-hearted attempts at empathy for you, when you know said boss has multiple houses in multiple countries, while you’re supposed to be happy with an annual raise of cents per hour.

        Definitely not motivational.

      2. MinB*

        That’s my Executive Director. My small nonprofit has had ~70% turnover in the last year, including staff hours being cut whenever someone leaves. At this point, there’s more work to be done than can be handled without overtime but we’re not allowed any overtime. Any time anyone on staff brings these problems up to the ED – the person who made the decision to cut hours! – she makes it all about her and how hard her job is. Even worse, she’s completely incompetent so she’s not helping with major fundraising or anything that could help us afford the staff we need! The board doesn’t seem interested in doing anything about the ED, so at this point I’m on my way out.

    2. Jennifer*

      Hah, I just want to be, “oh, you want me to CARE?” I’m here to take orders and do as I’m told, not *care.*

  9. TFS*

    This is definitely me right now. I was trying to write an email to Alison asking when it’s appropriate to ask for an extended personal leave from work and how to do it, but my overwhelming feeling of “they wouldn’t do it and it doesn’t even matter anymore” has kept me from finishing it. I’m looking for a new job but I’m not even sure if I really hate my job or if I just need a damn break.

    1. Erik*

      Take a break, and make sure to completely unwind. Disconnect yourself too – no phone, email, etc. Just go. Then see if that makes a difference.

      I’ve done this before and its worked wonders.

  10. Anon for now*

    My boss is guilty of all of this and their response to burn out is to basically, “I don’t want to hear it! Get it done!”

  11. Xarcady*

    Sadly, I checked all the boxes as well. My problem is I’m working 2 jobs while trying to find a full-time permanent job–and one of those jobs is a part-time retail job. Which, of course, has scheduled me for extra hours all through December, like 30 hours per week when I’m supposed to do 15-20, and those hours are frequently until 11 pm or midnight. And my other job starts at 8 am and is 40 hours/week+.

    I’m working there tomorrow night and I’ve decided to ask if my manager if she can cut my hours. Not my shifts, but just make them shorter shifts, so I’m not working 20 hours every weekend, and 6 hours every Friday night. I need a day off. I need a nap.

    The worst they can do is fire me, and I highly doubt they’ll do that. And if they do, they do. I’ll get some sleep and then find a different soul-sucking horrible retail job.

    You know it’s bad when someone asks “Are you looking forward to Christmas?” and all you can think is “D@mn, I have to spend the day with family instead of getting to sleep all day.”

  12. Ad Astra*

    Are some people just more prone to burnout? I felt major burnout in my first and second jobs after college, and sometimes I wonder if I’m just less resilient than others or if I just have a bad attitude or something.

    1. Ethyl*

      I think a LOT of it has to do with how your manager works and the overall culture of the workplace. I worked long hours with lots of unexpected and indefinite travel doing strenuous fieldwork for eight years and never felt nearly as burned out as when I worked 8:30-4:30 with limited travel and scheduled nights and weekends that I knew about ahead of time. The difference was my boss and the overall culture, without a doubt.

    2. Dasha*

      This is a really good question, can you re-post it Friday on the open thread because now I’m wondering the same thing.

    3. F.*

      While I’d like to see others’ responses, I think that those of us who give a damn and try to do our best are more prone to burnout, especially when we see slackers get rewarded. We also don’t know what is going on in our coworkers’ lives. Some may have it relatively easy, but others may be dealing with a lot of personal/family stress. It all adds up and takes a toll.

    4. misspiggy*

      I’ve seen how important your underlying physical constitution is to be able to cope with working in the humanitarian field, and conversely how even the strongest, healthiest people can end up broken in health if they don’t address work burnout. People’s immune systems are often hugely affected, so if you know you’re dodgy in that area, you have to hold yourself in reserve more.

      You have to get to know yourself really well, and force yourself to cut back on working at the point where you flip over into having recurring problems. Once you’re getting regular mental or physical problems due to work issues, it’s extremely difficult to get back on an even keel. I’ve learned the very hard way that it’s better to be fired or leave while you’re still able to work. The alternative is to be chronically ill because work has blown a hole through the weaknesses in your genetic/mental makeup, and you’re no longer able to work much or at all.

      When I’ve dialled work right back, I’ve actually found that people still want to employ me, and are in fact able to put up with restrictions on my availability and input that they previously claimed were untenable.

      1. misspiggy*

        Thinking about it, unless you have a sleep disorder or other fatigue or anxiety problem, your feelings of burnout may have been beneficial. If you’re the kind of person who stops overworking yourself before you ruin your health, that gives you more resilience in the long term than someone who pushes it for years and then has a total collapse. You’ll probably also work out quicker and more efficient ways of working and recovering earlier on in your career, which will serve you well.

  13. PontoonPirate*

    And then there are the managers who welcome input, strive to make you feel valued and push you to take all the rest you need … and yet nothing that should change in the organization ever, ever does. What’s the point of welcoming input and espousing openness and honesty if it goes nowhere? If I sat in my office and talked to myself I’d get the same result.

    My manager is kind and he shoulders a lot more of the workload than he should (we’re an overburdened, understaffed department in a non-profit), but he never seems to push for any productive change or advocate for his employees when he should. He’s a yes-guy to the core, willing to buy into leadership’s vacant promises of “change” that never comes.

    I’ve been here less than three years but it feels like thirty.

    1. Windchime*

      Is this manager’s name Joe? Because I used to work for him. He was/is the nicest guy in the world; going to a 1:1 with him was like visiting a sympathetic therapist. He made agreeable noises and wrote things down, but nothing ever, ever changed.

      1. PontoonPirate*

        Hah, no, not Joe. My manager seems to think that tapdancing on the quicksand of ill-defined projects, suddenly abandoned directives, ill-conceived priorities, bad communication and deteriorating resources is all just good management.

        I’ll admit I don’t have the full picture and perhaps my guy is just hiding his light under a bushel. But from my perspective, all feedback–even the solicited/especially the solicited–goes into a void.

    2. Lizzy*

      Your second paragraph is pretty much what happened at my last job. I was only there a year, but burn out started happening about 3 months into the job. I had a supervisor who was kind and did shoulder a lot of the workload, but like your manager, she always caved into leadership’s nonsense. It was a pity too because she was quite talented and had so many ideas on how to change the direction of the organization for the better (and tried encouraging staff to do the same).

      In her defense (and maybe your manager’s too), she wanted change and creating a better environment for staff. However, leadership was never going to change and I think she eventually accepted defeat.

    3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      he never seems to push for any productive change or advocate for his employees when he should

      My manager is like this and it is *so* frustrating when you see other division heads who do advocate for their teams continue to get more staff and resources.

    4. Jennifer*

      My manager is lovely, but the one above her roadblocks everything that isn’t her own idea, so nothing changes or gets worse.

  14. Jenny Next*

    This was so me, last year. 7 years of no or minimal raises, constantly increasing workloads, answering to multiple people, all with deadlines, who hadn’t bothered to budget for people to do the work.

    My supervisor was willing to help me prioritize, but to her that meant taking the interesting assignments away and leaving me the repetitive boring work that absolutely had to be done. Not that it mattered, because between overwork, anxiety, and boiling resentment at the de facto demotion, my brain had pretty much lost its capacity to think and create.

    I’ve been working part time for someone else for most of the last year, and recovery has been very slow. It’s only in the last month or two that I have started to feel a little more normal, and that my brain can access my deep expertise in my field. I still struggle with brain freeze when someone asks me a question I’m not prepared for. I feel that I have a form of PTSD. And most of this could have been prevented if it had occurred to anyone that more work and more revenue means that you need more staff.

  15. Workfromhome*

    Its interesting that so many people have addressed or hinted around this. The most discouraging thing you can hear fgrom your manager when you reveal you are overloaded or overworked is “Yeah I am too, everyone else is we all have toi deal with it”.

    The fact that under staffing is rampant doesn’t make it RIGHT! Somehow the fact that others are just as miserable as you and that they will continue to be miserable is supposed to make things better?

    If I were to add one suggestion as to what to do?

    Eliminate unimportant tasks but not doing them! Every job has tasks that people do simply becuase “we’ve alwasy done it or X will become very upset if its not done” What I’ve found is that when I simply have too much on my plate I say “I have too much on my plate..I cannot do A-Z. If you want A-V then W,XY and Z simply are NOT going to get done. Then don’t do W-Z. What I’ve found is that often no one even NOTICES! The person who wanted Z is gone, or Y has now been replaced by the report already done in B. We are doing tasks that no one really notices if there not done out of fear.

    If its important someone will squawk about it. The stuff that gets squawked about will get done. The stuff that doesn’t won’t. Having clients squawk about a task has a much higher chance of having a new resource hired to do the task the client thinks is critical vs what an employee says is needed.
    At worse the response should be “yes I agree the situation is not right. Here is what I have attempted to do (present plan to upper management etc) but I have not been successful.” Don’t try to minimize other people’s pain it doesn’t help and just makes them feel more helpless.

    1. Jennifer*

      Well, the options are “continue to be overloaded and still have a job,” “find a job elsewhere” or “end up homeless and unemployed,” so yeah, it does boil down to “you just have to put up with it unless you find your own way out.”

      1. neverjaunty*

        Those may be the employee’s options, but the point is that management has a lot more options than telling employees “suck it up”.

    2. Jenny Next*

      “If its important someone will squawk about it. The stuff that gets squawked about will get done.”

      Too true! But some people are way better at squawking than others, even if, from an organizational perspective, their work isn’t more important. So the squawkers constantly push their way to the top of the priority list, and then you get to feel terrible that other people who deserve your time and your help just as much aren’t getting it, because they are being considerate of you.

    3. CMT*

      That strategy is what I did when I started my job and got the impression that many of the things I took over were things that were only done because they had been done forever. I stopped doing about half of my monthly tasks and only got one squawk.

  16. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*


    My boss is out on disability leave, has been gone for 3 months. Could be gone for 3 months more. I’m covering a good 35% of her responsibilities. My immediate coworker is on maternity leave. I’ll be covering her too. And our CEO thought I was insane when I asked who would be covering her maternity leave. “We’ll just do it. That’s what we do here.”

    I’m not burned out yet, but very close. Implementing all my self care tools daily to not just go insane with all the responsibilities I’m shouldering and for zero recognition of any form.

    Sigh, again. Just…sigh.

      1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

        That’s the plan. Waiting until after my wedding ’cause I need the money! In the meantime…lots of walks and meditation!

        1. neverjaunty*

          And suddenly your CEO will realize that there’s nobody else to do the work, and wonder why!

  17. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Important note:

    All those points also can be symptoms of depression.

    Anyone noticing those points in themselves: Please do some soul searching and be completely honest with yourself. Think about if you need to talk to a mental health specialist.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      And just a note on your note that you do not need to be clinically depressed to find value in seeing a therapist! So many people say things like, “I don’t think it’s bad enough,” but if you’re not able to work through whatever issue in the way you want to, a good therapist can help. Burnout itself is a perfectly good reason to seek help, and it may turn out that your symptoms also indicate depression, in which case the therapist will be well-positioned to help get you the right kind of help.

      1. Liza*

        Yes! You don’t have to be clinically depressed to benefit from a therapist, you don’t have to be clinically anything. If you’re having some symptoms of depression or anxiety a good therapist may be able to help you so you don’t get clinically depressed!

  18. Life after burnout*

    It has been 1 year and 2 weeks since I resigned suffering extreme burnout and situational depression. Best thing I ever did. I’ve spent the year resting and recovering, looking after myself. Ex-work now realises how much I did and how well. They have had to pay 4 consultants to do specific tasks and there is more not being done. It is all rather sad, because the situation could have been easily resolved but the management didn’t see the need for that effort. Their loss. I now have just started a new job and am very happy. There is life and work after burnout.

  19. Golden Yeti*

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think feelings of burnout are just limited to overwork or being yelled at all the time; I think they can also come from a bad environment. I would probably fall under that category.

    For me, the environment (and that I’m still here) is so disheartening that with the prolonged exposure it *became* physically/mentally/emotionally exhausting. When you know things are never going to change in the company, and you can’t advance, and you disagree with certain attitudes/practices at the company, but all your efforts to leave are unfruitful and you seriously start wondering if you’ll be stuck there forever…yeah. I think that’s burnout territory, too. At that point, it’s a real struggle to care about anything, because anything you do feels like feeding the monster.

  20. Tris Prior*

    Yep, this all sounds familiar. The worst part is that while I know my bosses are sympathetic, and are burned out themselves, there just does not seem to be a solution. We are horribly short staffed and sales have been so bad this year there is no money to hire anyone. Now we’re in the holiday rush – which is good, god knows we need the money – and we are just crumbling under the pressure.

    We’ve already pared down all tasks that are not absolutely necessary for running the business, and there’s still way too much for everyone to do. And even though we’re in a holiday rush right now, that ends sooner or later, so we’re also being pushed to think about what new widgets we’ll be releasing in the new year to drum up money when it’s slow in Jan/Feb. NONE of us have the brain to come up with good ideas right now, but we know that if we don’t, we’ll really be scrambling for sales after the holidays. We are all scared for our jobs – more accurately, scared that the company’s going to go under entirely.

    What kills me is that a big part of the reason I’m burned out is because others were allowed to take time off. And now the people who took off are burned out because there’s no one to fill in while they are gone, so they all came back to a huge mess! I can’t really be angry about it because people should be able to take their vacations, but it almost feels not worth it. We are a tiny company, fairly close-knit, and we actually all feel terrible about taking our PTO because we know what a mess we’re leaving for our co-workers if we’re gone.

    I guess I feel like my bosses are already doing everything suggested in Alison’s article but none of those things have solved the problem. I feel like the only solution is to look elsewhere, which sucks because I really liked my job before we started having all these money pressures.

    1. misspiggy*

      You’re only now being asked about the New Year widgets? Not a business expert in any way, but that sounds like a business which is not sustainable.

  21. Bryce*

    Sign #6:
    Your employees are calling in sick a lot.

    If a lot of your employees are often calling in sick, whether they’re “coming down with something” or just need “mental health days,” consider that burnout may be a factor. After all, stress does a real number on your immune system and your body as a whole, which can lead to everything from headaches and stomachaches to heart attacks and cancer.

    I work for a health insurance company. We work with our clients to help them identify certain patterns of health care usage to find opportunities for our clients to better manage their health care costs and keep their employees healthy. In one case, a client had a high percentage of its employee population taking blood pressure meds and antidepressants, as well as an above-average incidence of heart attacks.

    Turns out that this client surveyed its employees and found that it had a serious burnout problem. This organization changed its leave policy to allow employees more leave and to more easily take advantage of it.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        This was me. I used my sick days to job search. My current (and soon to be former) job was killing me.

    1. Anon for this*

      Oh wow, that sounds so much like my workplace. We have been dealing with massive increases in insurance costs for multiple years and it’s so clear to *almost* everyone that our high usage is caused or contributed to by our workplace.

  22. JennG*

    This is great advice.

    I actually wrote you in the midst of crazy burnout where in retrospect my email didn’t even make sense. In my case I was promoted as I was burning out and my workload doubled, since my old job didn’t go away plus I was managing a team of what would eventually become 8. I was tired, my judgment was off and more to the point, I was emotionally raw.

    The whole division re-organized and I was laid off…5 months later I’m about to finish a probationary period in a way better job and I feel like a whole new person. Up until that experience I was pretty much a “tough it out” kind of person, then I was a “what is WRONG with ME” person and now I’m a person who recognizes burnout as a real thing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a new ad box I’m testing out. Ad conventions are changing, and advertisers are increasingly interested in being places other than the sidebar.

  23. Natalie*

    Well, whatever it’s worth, this article made it obvious that I am insanely burned out, so I just had a “come to jesus”* conversation with my manager. No idea if anything will change this time, but it’s the first time I’ve ever explicitly said something needs to change because I am super burned out and will leave. So I guess if that does happen at least I won’t feel like I’ve blindsided them. High fives to me.

    *Is there some kind of non-religious version of this saying? I always feel odd using the metaphor in a work context, lest someone believe I am literally proselytizing to my manager.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve heard “come to deity” for something with a similar meaning, but not attached to a specific religion.

  24. Anonymity*

    Yeah, I tick all those boxes. It’s making things worse that while my new supervisor and I have worked together for years, we have very different personalities, communication styles, and preferred methods of learning so sometimes the average workday feels like banging my head against a wall.

    New Supervisor was just promoted from being a Lead, but now there’s no Lead. NSup has made it clear that he would like a couple of us to apply for the Lead position, but Couple of Us have clearly stated we have no interest in it (we have seen what he dealt with while in that position and NO. EFFING. WAY). And now he’s trickling down some of that position’s responsibilities (next paragraph) to us anyway because he has no one else and has no time himself to do them.

    I’m being told to monitor my part-time coworkers’ productivity and talk to them about why they’re not completing enough teapots per shift. My position is not supervisory or managerial in any way, I have complete disinterest in being either of those things, but a ‘why aren’t you meeting your teapot quota’ conversation strikes me as being a supervisory conversation.

    I’ve tried to address the communication problem, but it’s really not helping that he sets up weekly (now every other) meetings to see how things are going and so far most of them have been cancelled or rescheduled or shortened or turned into something else. There’s another one scheduled for today, but we’ll see if that one actually happens.

  25. Calibrachoa*

    This rings so true. My team is currently expected to work at what is roughly 400% capacity because we have multiple accounts that treat us like a dedicated support team rather than a shared resource and it is just… Nope. Add to that chronic understaffing because our current manager is a neck-breathing tool who hires people who can’t do the job I have spent the past 6 months in a constant state of about to flip the table or burst out in tears.

  26. Research staffer*

    Does anyone have any brilliant insights on how to manage this when your department’s hands seem to be tied on hiring (think university setting)? I am so burned out and can’t see an end in sight. When I’ve raised this issue, the response is basically — we’re all stressed.

    I loved this job for a long time, but 8 years in, I am headed for a breakdown.

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