Employee with a burnout: You are a manager and you see someone decline. Well-intended remarks to let the employee take it a bit easier are ignored or even snapped. But then comes the long-awaited phone call: the employee is sick. Perhaps there will be some revivals in the form of a few days better, again sick, etc. Until the moment that the employee stays away for a week, two weeks and longer. The employee is burnout.

You are there and you look at it. You can’t do anything, right? Nevertheless: this article will help you deal better with an employee with burnout.

burnout symptoms

Consequences of burnout among employees

Burnout often results in a prolonged illness period. On average, someone with a burnout stays at home for six to eight months. There are situations where employees even sit at home for 2 years. The costs for a burnout therefore quickly increase towards € 100,000. Apart from the costs, there is human suffering and the overload on the employees left behind, with all its consequences.

It is, of course, best to see a burnout arrive at an employee early. On the other hand, the effective organization of the right culture is the best and most sustainable means in violation of sustainable employability .

We cannot escape it, the trend shows, we will have to deal more and more with an increasing number of burnout cases. Preventive plans against burnout must be implemented. On the other hand, it is not always possible to prevent burnout among employees. This article is intended to help managers to better understand an employee with burnout, but also to guide them effectively towards reintegration

Burnout among employees is actually quite a tricky illness because, as a manager, it is difficult to see on the outside what is going on with the employee.

> Read also: Recognizing stress in an employee.

burnout risks

Which employee gets a burnout?

People don’t break because they have always been weak. They break because they have been strong for too long. In other words: the people in the team who are going crazy will not get a burnout that quickly. It is precisely the motivated forces, the people who give 110%, who are socially involved, who have high standards and values: it is these who get a burnout.

From a lot of stress to burnout

Nobody has a burnout just like that. It often seems that the employee who always seemed strong suddenly got sick at home with a burnout. This always seems to go fast, but a process has always preceded it.

Gaining insight into this process helps you to make the employee return better in the end.

In the early stages of burnout, you see an employee reacting abruptly. You can also see from the employee that it has not been working this way lately. He will work against it to get the job done, with adverse consequences. When it lasts longer, you notice that the work results deteriorate because someone’s ability to concentrate deteriorates. Many have also forgotten, are late, have not slept, headaches and increasing short-term absence are indicators.

You recognize an employee with a burnout in many aspects. Of course, there is that all-embracing fatigue, but also listlessness, distance from work, exhausted, headache, absent (not sharp), forgetful, excessive perspiration, unable to calm down, worrying a lot, exhibiting separate behaviour, emotional outbursts, etc belong to burnout.

The complaints are therefore very diverse. We always encourage a medical exam to rule out that there is no other medical cause. Also so that the employee knows for sure that burnout is the cause and not a medical problem and can thus be busy with recovery.

>> Read also: symptoms of burnout in an employee.

Employee is unreachable

In practice, we hear from many managers that they have wanted to warn an employee, but that the employee was not open to that. The reason for this is deeper than you often think. An employee feels completely known for his hard work, everything he/she performs and what contacts he/she has. By having to admit that it doesn’t work out, the employee makes a dent in his own ‘being’. Hard work is therefore never a cause of burnout. Hard work is a consequence to close a gap in itself.

It is always a good idea to discuss signals that you recognize with the employee. We will come back to this later in the article. If you want to prevent long-term absences, then as a manager you cannot just let that happen, because you are the manager and failure is not handy for anyone. Regardless of your professional knowledge, you are the contact person for your employees.

But the question is whether someone with the above-mentioned complaints or signals realizes that he is not doing well. Let alone that he/she is knocking on your door. Ask yourself: would you (dare) ring the bell at your team leader or director in a similar situation? Often this still feels like a sign of weakness.

An employee is not always aware of his own complaints. They keep on going, shoulders underneath, an extra cup of coffee, I’m sure things will go better tomorrow (or not). A short vacation doesn’t help anymore at a given moment.

stressed employee looking into distance in front of lake

Addressing an overloaded employee

When you recognize the complaints, you must discuss this as a manager. This can be difficult, it remains difficult when you hold the mirror up to someone and confront them with the symptoms.

The fact that you listen sincerely allows the other person to tell his story. After which possibly the penny will drop. Only then is it time for step 2: to look together at what adequate support is needed to get someone up and running again.

A ‘step back’ at an early stage helps prevent employees from dropping out completely. Dare to manage this as a manager!

Besides, employees naturally also have a responsibility to take. Burnout or stress complaints can never be fully attributed to a work situation. Burnout is also determined by someone’s personality and how stressful situations are dealt with. The work situation can be the driver. Your involvement as a manager is essential in this regard when it comes to speeding up recovery and preventing relapse.

Make stress and the impact of stress also open to discussion within the entire team. Often this is not placed as a point on a meeting agenda, but the burden is experienced when people drop out.

>> Read on: addressing employee.

Tips for addressing

Below are a few practical tips to take with you when you start a conversation with an overburdened employee.

  • Do not pull someone abruptly from his workplace, but indicate that you would like to talk to him and check when it suits him.
  • Find a place where you can talk to each other undisturbed or suggest that you do this while walking
  • Write down a few facts that you observe in advance.
  • Name the facts from the IK-form, so not you do this and you are tired, but “I see” or “I notice”
  • Ask the personnel department or HR department in advance about the standard procedure in these situations.
  • Also indicate what it does to you, for example, that you are worried or that you are confused because you do not know this behaviour from the person. Be honest about this. You ask someone in a vulnerable situation about a sensitive subject (the other person feels that things are not going well). By naming what the situation does to you, you lower your bridge half
  • Then also state what you would like to know from the other person:
  • ‘do you recognize this?’
  • “Has this been playing for a long time?”
  • “Any idea why this is?” 
  • Above all, as a manager, give the feeling that you are behind your employee and that the company will help the employee to recover.

Always keep conversations of this type free of judgment. Often an employee does not look sick, but there is a good chance that he will resist and refuse to be known. Stay in conversation from an open and curious attitude, looking together at what is needed to help the person reduce the stress.

Remember that an employee who is overloaded does not want to have these complaints either. Everyone is, after all, preferably fit and energetic.

>> Read also: Make stress negotiable.

What to do if an employee gets a burnout

Sometimes the point is that there is no stopping it. The employee leaves and you will hardly see him in the workplace in the coming months.

Understand that the word ‘work’ in the coming months will ensure that the employee shoots through the ceiling with his stress level. It is nevertheless important that regular contact with the employee takes place. This contact is therefore not about content, but about social matters. Understand that someone burned out would love to know what happened. (It was not for nothing that it was the go-kart) As a supervisor, you are advised not to go along with this but to let the employee unwind. This time is going to be caught up twice later

Once an employee has fallen ill, several practical basic requirements will help in the successful return of an employee with burnout:

>> Read also:  reintegration after burnout.

1 | Keep in touch every week

Keeping in touch every week is important. This requires discipline. Remember that keeping in touch every week evokes fear in someone with a burnout. The thought of ‘having to justify’ can cause the employee to burnout with a sweat. So plan a fixed time, keep it short and very light. Keeping in touch weekly keeps the threshold for reintegration low, which has major advantages at a later stage.

2 | Listen to an employee

As a supervisor, you are probably the first person in the company to whom an employee with a burnout goes to tell them that it is no longer possible. This step is incredibly large for a performance-oriented employee . So do not come with tips, do not think that ‘take it easy’ will solve the problem and do not think you understand what burnout is unless you have experienced one yourself.

Listening is going to bring peace to the employee so that you can better help the employee

3 | Increase your knowledge

Knowledge is power and everything starts with insight. Read what burnout is exactly. We have devoted a large number of blogs and articles to this. When you realize what burnout is, consider how your employee should feel: empty, tired, depressed, no longer in mood, frustrated, unloving.

4 | Call in help

The step to calling in help can be a huge one for an employee with a burnout. So look for someone who can help him or her who specializes in burnout and stress. Due to the specific symptoms associated with burnout, but often resembling other syndromes such as depression and anxiety disorders, a general coach or psychologist is often ineffective.

5 | Encourage exercise

Although an employee often finds this difficult, especially when he is sitting tired and exhausted on the couch, exercise is crucial in the recovery from burnout. Certainly, in the first phase of burnout, in which the head is full, the body no longer works, does not want to concentrate, impossible to teach anyone, let alone change. The hormone balance is stabilized by moving. Cortisol (the stress hormone) is lowered, reducing stress. The first steps in recovery have been taken.

>> Read also about burnout prevention.

How to re-integrate after burnout?

Integration after a burnout creates a lot of tension and extra stress for an employee. He/she returns to the place where he/she became ill, where the source of all misery lies. Often this is accompanied by serious feelings of failure, not being good enough, uncertainty, fear, etc. Moreover, the environment often expects old performances from someone who has just returned after a burnout. The old performance may never come back unless a new burnout is desired.

Care for  reintegration  Always:

  • clear communication between supervisor, an employee with burnout and other team members
  • a reintegration plan that protects the employee from going too fast
  • a weekly moment of tuning

So don’t push as a manager, but stick to the reintegration scheme. Do not deviate from this and do not add tasks in the meantime. Also do not plan time packed. The reintegration period is fragile and relapse is achieved in no time.

Watch out for a new burnout!

It sounds strange, but a new burnout among employees regularly occurs. Not that they have learned nothing from the first, but because they have not changed as humans and have not learned to deal with the cause of the first burnout. Coaching someone with a burnout goes much further than just physical and mental recovery. It should also ensure that recurrence occurs by dealing with:

  • Specific limits
  • Acknowledgement of own weaknesses
  • Dare to ask for help
  • Finding happiness in life
  • Philosophy of life
  • Finding sources of energy
  • Autonomy

>> Read also: increasing resilience of employees.

Preventing burnout among employees?

The main cause of burnout is a lack of self-management (autonomy) followed by a high workload. It is remarkable that when people are allowed to determine their own direction, they experience less work pressure. If you want to reduce the number of burnout cases in the workplace, this must be a spearhead in the development of managers and strategic choices. There is a bitter necessity within almost every company!

Who are we?

Milltain supports, with a team of experienced trainers, organizations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. Our training courses are aimed at managers within companies. A burnout quickly costs the organization € 70,000.

In addition to financial suffering, human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before you know it you are in a negative vicious circle.

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