The usual prescription for employee burnout is to work less. However, that so-called remedy doesn’t take into account why we feel unhappy at work in the first place, why we are suddenly stressed out by our workload, and why we feel depleted and unable to bounce back.
In my experience, a major reason people get burned out at work is surprising one to many of them. It’s because they’ve temporarily lost a basic driver of success: the sense of “I can do this!” In short, their self-confidence is weak.
Being confident in yourself hinges on being self-aware, knowing yourself, being in touch with what you want, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and seeing how your talents can best be used to make you successful.
If you want to fight burnout, work on building self-confidence! Here are seven ways to do it.
1. Program your sleeping brain.
Before bed, write down three to five things you did well that day. Read them aloud so they are the last thoughts you have before you go to sleep. This is a behavioral technique that helps to embed positive thoughts and feelings about yourself into your unconscious mind while you sleep.
2. Make yourself feel better.
List 10 smaller things you can do in a day to build your confidence, then work on implementing each of these ideas over the course of a week. Examples might include: talking to a mentor; finishing a dreaded task you’ve been putting off; changing your appearance; or taking a walk in the park at lunch.
3. Learn something new.
Commit to learning a skill that’s related to your desired outcome or what’s important to you. It could be work-related, such as downloading new apps for your smartphone to streamline some of your daily tasks. Or it could be a skill, such as taking a language class. Acquiring a new skill increases confidence and boosts your self-image.
4. Seek out challenges and take risks.
It may seem counterintuitive to seek out challenges when you’re already feeling burnt out and discouraged. But confidence comes from taking risks, not from avoiding them. Also, a major component of burnout is boredom. Risk taking is an effective cure for boredom.
5. Get perspective; practice gratitude.
Work to appreciate who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you already have. If helpful, make a list of what you’re grateful for. Imagine, for example, how you would feel if you were suddenly unable to work. Your gratitude list keeps your workplace worries in perspective. Keep that gratitude list where you can look at it often.
6. Identify your zone.
Most of us are really content at work when we’re in our zone. What does that mean to you? Solving a computer problem? Crunching numbers? Figure out what it is that you truly love to do at work, when time flies by and you feel a sense of accomplishment. Just remembering this feeling can often help you fight burnout.
7. Note your successes.
When you do something you feel good about, record it right then. Keep a running list over time that you can refer to when you feel down, stressed out, or overwhelmed.
Beverly Flaxington is a workplace behavioral expert who specializes in helping individuals deal with workplace relationships, performance issues, and goal achievement. A Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), hypnotherapist, and career and business advisor, she’s the award-winning author of five books, including Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go (ATA Press, 2012).
Interview with Beverly Flaxington
CB (Careerbright): What are the three main signs of burnout at work?
In addition to a general malaise when getting ready for work, or a feeling of dread on a Sunday night….. the three main signs:
(1) Resistance to taking on anything new and inability to complete existing tasks/projects assigned,
(2) Lack of interest in working effectively with others – no energy or desire to “get along” and sometimes an overt frustration or anger with boss/co-workers,
(3) Inability to prioritize and focus on the most important tasks. Often a focus on those things that don’t matter at the expense of those that do!
CB: How can an employee effectively and tactfully communicate burnout to the manager/boss?
Employees have to be very careful here! It’s actually not recommended that an employee communicate burnout to their boss – this can often backfire where the boss may interpret the person as disloyal or not tough enough. Instead, the employee needs to examine what’s burning them out? What obstacles are they facing? What is preventing them from enjoying their job or being effective? Then, if the employee can get very specific on solutions – what they need in order to recharge and reinvigorate, then they may be able to present some proposed solutions to their boss. For example, “I was thinking it might be useful for us to sit down and prioritize the 15 projects I am working on. I want to be most effective for the company and knowing what’s most important will help me to prioritize activities.”
CB: How can one know that it is time to call it quits or perhaps go on a sabbatical to ‘escape’/’avoid’/or’cope’ with burnout? Is the worker right in thinking on those terms and know that ‘dealing’ is perhaps the best way than these other escapist measures?
Here again, very critical to understand the target of the burnout. Is it something being done TO me as the employee, or am I taking steps and making decisions that is contributing to my burnout? We do have to look internally and see if there are changes we can make. Are there different things I could do to alleviate the situation or make my approach more effective?