We love management jobs. But do we silently suffer from executive burnouts?

Management jobs are aspirational for most of us. But do you find yourself feeling these symptoms: a constant feeling of fatigue, a sense of irritability or impatience with co-workers and clients, a feeling of being under siege by circumstances.

I am sure most of us have days when you have to drag yourself to work every Monday and have trouble getting started once there. Have you heard a colleague complaining about unexplained headaches and restlessness?

Before you think whether this is a pre-diagnosis checklist to some physical ailment, let me assure you it is not so.

If you are experiencing this or observing such behavior in your colleagues, you need to know you are dealing with a special type of job related stress called ‘executive burnout’. The official definition is “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about self competence and the value of the individual’s work.”

Statistics show that today’s current business climate and the demands of work are making once qualified, energetic and productive employees into becoming victims of burnout.

There are several things that contribute to this prevalent corporate phenomenon from organizational change, the fast paced work life, to increased demand for instant information and communication, lack of resources or staff needed to meet responsibilities, a constantly changing work environment with changes in policies or goals, rapid changes in the industry with strong marketplace competition, and excessive work expectations all add to the stress faced by today’s executives which lead to burnout.

What are the organizational conditions in management jobs is responsible for executive burnout?

According to Susan Jackson and Randall Schuler, the primary organizational conditions that contribute to the burnout phenomenon are:

  1. Lack of clarity on job expectations, on support in terms of training, mentorship, visionary direction on career path;
  2. Outdated work policies
  3. Micromanagement by the leadership which stifles the sense of ownership felt by the employee which undermine a employee’s sense of control.
  4. There are also personal characteristics like difficulty in delegating or asking for help, multi-tasking at furious speed and at multiple levels, inadequate mentorship and a skewed work life balance, all work with the organizational conditions to create more negative stress for the individual.

What kinds of behavior patterns are observed?

The executive or the manager starts to withdraw mentally and thus cause a sense of emotional detachment and coldness. The lack of empathy and sense of cynicism leads to interpersonal friction and a subsequent isolation from support groups like peers and seniors.

The individual caught in this vicious circle would suffer from low productivity, which enhances his sense of lack of control and he would not be able to muster enough positivity to break out of this circle. In order to over compensate for the feelings of inadequacy, he might compromise on his personal life in order to make up at work.

The last extremity of this phenomenon is health issues that manifest due to this never-ending circle of work and stress.

Whatever the cause is, burnout shows very evidently on corporate parameters like job performance, employee retention, team morale, job commitment, and absenteeism. Because burnout is detrimental to organizations as well individuals it is important for employers to consider and employ multi-pronged strategies to prevent this phenomenon in their respective work places.

Each management job, organization and the team has its unique DNA; therefore, any problem affecting it cannot be covered under a generic cure.

The interventions suggested are generic and can be used in a roadmap to deal with executive burnout in your organization. The best method is to study your team and see if any particular reason is responsible for the burnout situation like work policies, micro-management by the leadership without any evident support, lack of recognition or rewards, or not enough clarity on the job, responsibility or key performance parameters. Then decide which interventions are required and be easily implemented and which need work at policy level.

Method for combating executive burnout

A 3-pronged method of combating executive burnout in management jobs has been detailed below with specific actions and interventions that have been effectively used in several organizations.

Management jobs and executive burnouts


  • Regular employee interactions. This includes both staff meetings and one-on-one meetings at regular frequency with the set agenda of discussing their issues, the work environment and their needs. Communicate the company and department’s goals to them, the steps taken and how they contribute in real time as well as what is the future of the company.
  • Recognize and appreciate their contributions. Make it a regular ritual to really look for opportunities to find evidence of solid effort or accomplishment in an employee’s presentation skills, or his proactive nature or his participation in the office internal events.
  • Clarify Expectations and Job Requirements. Another common reason that employees experience workplace burnout is because it is unclear what they should be doing. There are often times where the key responsibilities are not clear or the multiple chains of leadership are unclear in their instructions.
  • Increasing participation in decision-making. The importance of being able to control, or at least to predict future outcomes, is well recognized by organizational researchers. Having opportunities to make one’s own choices and the freedom and ability too influence events in ones surroundings can be intrinsically motivating and highly rewarding.


  • Offering time-off. Informal off-site retreats can help revitalize teams as well as individuals and they serve as reward and recognition for hard work. Encourage vacation time for the executives to recharge their batteries.
  • Training and Development Opportunities. Leaders must actively organize workshops and regular training sessions for people to keep up with rapidly changing demands of the workplace.
  • Financial Rewards. Employees are more motivated when there is a monetary incentive involved – be it an increase in compensation or a performance-based bonus.
  • Be flexible and encourage an open non-restrictive culture. In addition to directly motivating your employees, encourage them to self-motivate by allowing stress relievers: Let them listen to music while they work, flextime their work hours, allow casual dress, or institute telecommuting. This will help your employees enjoy their time at work, while also demonstrating that you care about their well-being.
  • Become an Equal Opportunity provider. Provide opportunities to all so that everyone gets to perform according to their unique abilities. Push those seem under-stimulated or on the verge of burnout to undertake new and exciting responsibilities that will push their existing skill-set. Increase their interactions with other team members through training, shadow apprenticeship, and other social exchanges.


  • Establishing peer support groups. Internal peer groups can be established within different departments, which can meet in a open or informal forum and discuss exchange ideas, get feedback, discuss challenges and opportunities, establish compelling goals and to take action. This offers executives an opportunity to receive support that can stave off burnout.
  • Coaching. A professional coach can be the psychological mentor wherein the individual is allowed to express things that might otherwise be repressed and denied because of organizational politics. The person can explore what really matters the most, what strengths and needs are available, and how best to handle stress and challenges. When there is a mismatch of an individual and the job, an effective plan can be made that benefits both the individual and the organization.
  • Plan better work-life balance. Get your employees in and out of the office in the numbers of hours that were agreed upon at their hire. Encourage the team to think about personal and professional priorities. Have a career-planning program to help managers reevaluate their goals. Give the team a task of redesigning work processes to create the optimum work life balance.

The key is to balance the employee needs against those of your organization and make adjustments as needed. The more people can manage the inevitable stresses of life and work, especially in management jobs, the less chance these will drain you of the positive energy you feel when you are productive and motivated by what you do.

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