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Management: Start With Yourself First

By Kelly Pray

Burnout continues to permeate workplace environments. Across industries, over 50% of U.S. office workers say they are stressed at work on a daily basis – and that number is only increasing. In fact, the World Health Organization has declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon,” predicting it will become a global pandemic within the next 10 years. So, how can you as a leader best prepare staff for what seems to be inevitable? By starting with yourself first.

Burnout can exist when staff feel overworked, underappreciated and/or under-resourced. Signs of workplace burnout include exhaustion, low morale, anxiety, stress and lack of personal effectiveness. You may be feeling the effects of one or more of these signs right now – and research shows that more likely than not staff members are experiencing it too. It’s difficult to provide the necessary and appropriate support to those who are experiencing varying levels of burnout. It may seem near impossible when hoping to manage this through your own burnout as well.

If you’re finding yourself overtired or disconnected – for the sake of both your health and your employees, it’s time to put yourself first. This may seem counterintuitive to those of us who aspire to be servant leaders, who put the needs of their staff before their own. It is important to understand that you can’t help your employees if you can’t first help yourself.

When you fly on an airplane, the safety demonstration always instructs adults to put their oxygen mask on first before helping others. This is to best ensure the overall survival of everyone. Similarly, it is your imperative as a leader to best ensure the overall success of your organization. Not only will you leverage your abilities to best support your team, but you will set the example that personal health and well-being come first. So, where do you start?

A low hanging fruit to putting your personal health first is to get enough sleep. Countless studies have shown the efficacy a good night’s sleep can have on one’s emotional, physical and mental well-being. While certain constraints at work may feel beyond your control, your sleep schedule should not be one of them. Reframe the thought that rest and recovery equates to laziness and low work ethic. You want to be your most productive self, exhibiting optimal capacity for your leadership. Your most productive self is going to operate when you are at 100%.

Additionally, you don’t need to face burnout alone. If you are struggling to find ways to combat burnout, invite your employees to participate in finding a solution that works best for the team. Engage with them in thought partnership to best get through tough times together. This will hopefully allow for options to successfully start re-engaging your teams and yourself.

In partnering with your staff, reground yourselves in why you are putting in the work in the first place. Remember the Golden Circle from January’s article? Losing sight of the bigger picture can cause demotivation, especially to those who are at or above capacity. As a leader, remind yourself and your team the greater purpose to the work you are putting in to highlight the significance of your combined efforts.

In addition to engaging your staff, make sure your leader is aware of your workplace burnout. Communicate the consequences of burnout and, if possible, demonstrate the return on investment of allowing you to recover to a more optimal operating capacity. This may open the door for your leader to provide support and resources to you as well as your team.

Burnout isn’t a choice, and it isn’t something to be belittled in the workplace environment. Burnout can feel overwhelming and, at times, like a failure. Anyone is susceptible to workplace burnout- regardless of expertise. Recognize the signs, press pause and put yourself first.


Kelly Pray is the enterprise change management lead at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.



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