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Deborah Cole Explains How Noticing Burnout Can Protect Employees

Job burnout is a unique type of workrelated stress—a state of prolonged emotional, physical and emotional exhaustion that might also include a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Burnout occurs when you (or an employee) feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands on the job.

We know it is possible to have some of these feelings on any given day in our challenging jobs in the green industry. Who hasn’t felt physically exhausted after long weeks of relentless heat or cold weather with too much work to do and not enough materials to accomplish it? And who hasn’t wanted to run for the hills after being disrespected one more time by a disgruntled customer who can’t get things done to his/her satisfaction? How about when the family situation at home has been less than ideal over a weekend and you arrive at work Monday morning to a work area stacked with too much work and too few people to accomplish it? Had enough? Then you are not alone. It happens to all of us no matter how much we love our industry or how much we love our jobs. But if there is never any sign of relief, the unthinkable can happen.

If burnout isn’t something personally felt, you might have witnessed it in others in its most profound manifestation. Direct reports who were once very enthusiastic over time have become unproductive to the point of apathy. Where they were once eager and receptive, they are now cynical and critical. Have you observed increased absenteeism and less enthusiasm to take on new tasks? Is praise no longer met with gratitude and smiles and nothing on the job ever seems to go right? Have you wondered what has set the cycle in motion?

In reality, it’s often not the job or the workload per se, but the outcome is the same. Stress, disillusionment and dissatisfaction become common states of being. And burnout can lead to less focus as well as accidents and safety issues on the job.This can occur whether or not the position involves machinery, equipment, vehicles or office tasks. Do you notice in yourself or your direct reports any of the following:

• Serious errors in judgment while on the job

• Inability to get a restful sleep resulting in foggy head on the job

• Sadness, anger or irritability that leads to inability to get along with coworkers

• Alcohol or substance misuse on the job or residual effects from either on the job

• Personal long-term health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, vulnerability to illnesses

It is critical to take action when burnout is experienced personally or observed in others. There may be options to eliminate or change work situations as well as to seek medical or therapeutic support. At a minimum, it is helpful to explore activities for stress relief outside of work. Ignoring the facts and hoping that things will improve without addressing the issues can lead to accidents, which are waiting to happen.

About Deborah Cole

Deborah Cole is the founder of a commercial landscape firm with multiple locations throughout Texas. She now devotes herself full-time to speaking, writing and consulting. 


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