I think there’s a big misconception about burnout in today’s society. We assume that burn out is just when you do too much work. If you work 70h a week or something like that you’ll burnout.
I don’t think that’s the case. We already know what motivates people. Yet seem unaware that burnout is the opposite of this. Managers often are trying to “shield” employees and making decisions that are “for their own good” but creates the opposite result. Really what drives people to burnout is:
- The lack of self-direction (Autonomy)
- The inability to impact necessary change when it’s needed (Purpose)
- The inability to grow in the direction we want (Mastery).
In the past, I’ve let folks work on things I thought were a waste a time. Not because I didn’t think they could use their time better but rather because not letting them would reduce their output to lower than it currently was. Even if they now spend 20% of their time on something I disagree with, the other 80% will be much more productive because of it and, in the end, that will help the team.
Now you may say, well I really don’t want that person to work on that. Or I really don’t think that’s a good idea. That means you don’t share the same vision as your employee and the only real solution is to let them go.
In the knowledge economy there are 2 things you should do with employees:
- Empower them
- Fire them
You should only ever do those 2 things. All the other ways out of the problem just postpone or create a worse problem in the future. As much as letting someone go is tough, most organizations I’ve been a part of should have done it more often rather than less often.