Burnout to Leadership

Ep #2: Who gets burnout and why?

October 01, 2021 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 2
Burnout to Leadership
Ep #2: Who gets burnout and why?
Show Notes Transcript

What you will learn:

  • What external factors (e.g. work environment) prompt burnout.
  • What kind of people experience burnout.
  • How you get in to burnout.
  • How World Health Organization classifies burnout.
  • What burnout looks like.


Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hi, so today I wanna talk to you about the question you're probably asking yourself, "Why did this happen to me?" And really, we'll talk about who gets into burnout, why that happens, and if you are in burnout, why you haven't been able to fix it so far. Of course there's many external factors that herald burnout. You know what

they are:

Lack of autonomy and agency is the headliner, poor quality leadership, lack of common purpose, lack of community, pressure driven work systems, competitive employee assessments, mass disengagement of workforce, takeovers, financial pressure and business failure, an antipathetic boss, a lack of HR support or training, unsupported bureaucratic systems, unrealistic time pressures, lack of success criteria, or maybe a shift in role definition, and often a requirement or expectation to be available 24/7. And let's not forget COVID. So sometimes as well, the job you signed up for just isn't a great fit for your talents, or is devolved away from your zone of genius or your interest. But beyond that, it also takes you and the habits you have that lend themselves to burnout. So let's look at who gets burnout. The kind of people who get into burnout are intelligent, smart, talented high achievers; typically very high driven, ambitious go getters; people who can fix any problem and perform consistently at a very high level. The thing is, these people tend to be very demanding, impatient, and have a low tolerance for both inefficiency and failure. They want things done right the first time, fast and flawless. They're perfectionists and people pleasers, yes men, often very charismatic. They tend to rack up a long list of qualifications, skills, and experience that are the envy of other people. But don't get in the way if you're not at their level, as they can be also be very aggressive. So they're the go to guys, the fixers, nothing is beyond them. Until one day, something goes wrong, and the magic momentarily deserts them.

They hit a big bump in the road:

A personal, family, financial, or career crisis maybe. Perhaps they experience major illness or accident. Or maybe they get divorced or lose a loved one; could even be a family member that takes the turn for the worst. Or they lose their job, or their job changes in the way that no longer suits them and their expertise. Or there's a takeover, or the organisation goes bankrupt, or they're laid off. Or the professional system they work within, always complex and rigid, starts to veer off into over regulation, and that hampers them serving their calling in a way that they'd like to. So all of that often happens in very structured and analytical sectors, industries, or roles. And examples might be medicine, law, finance, wealth management, accounting, STEM, anything science, technology, engineering, and math; big business startups, construction, military, sometimes the media, and roles of typically at the director or management level, C level, or entrepreneurs. So you are a picture kind of capable, driven, high achievers. And my short hand for that is Type A personality, and of course, yes, I am one of those. So these are the kind of people who are gonna keep pushing themselves until they have a heart attack, hand over that one, or a mental health challenge, or crash their cars, or something major. And in their quest for ultimate success, they find their own break point, basically. Because you know what you get if you keep bashing your head on a rock; you get a hole in your head, right? The World Health Organization classified burnout in May 2019 as an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition, you notice. They put it this way. "Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It's characterised by these three dimensions. Number one, feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion. Number two, increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job. Number three, reduced professional efficacy." So basically, we get tired of being pissed off at work, and we stop being successful. But notice they say, "Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." And I would counter that not only has the stress not been successfully managed, it's actually been deliberately provoked and extended, wilfully increased. It's almost, in our place, an act of defiance from us 'cause we're the invincibles. So we place really high demands and expectations on ourselves. And of course we usually meet them, but then we just yank the bar up, and we keep doing that repeatedly until we can't anymore. So it's my contention that burnout is an inside job, because otherwise everybody would have it. It's characterised by one main dimension, disappointment. We're never satisfied with our own performance, so we just keep pushing harder. And that's why once you're in burnout, you can't get out. It might be episodic, but it's also degenerative worsening over time and continuing often until collapse. Because the habits that get you into burnout won't get you out. Throwing more fire power to the problem will not solve it. It is the problem. So, I mean, it's easy for me to say, but I got into burnout the same way you did. My performance never satisfied my own impossible standards. I felt besieged, I tried to fix it, and I basically overworked until I popped. So I'm talking to you about this today after years of hoovering up ideas and research from other burnout experts and medical experts. And I really wish I'd known all this in 2017 when I was in burnout, but I didn't. All I knew was, I was broken, it was over; it scared the daylights out of me. Because if I didn't have massive work success, one is, did I have, who on Earth was I? So let's look quickly at one of my clients on why he was in burnout. Here are the signs that he had. And I'm just gonna make a big list of them. Firstly, he needed an empty inbox to feel okay. He felt compelled to respond to messages any time he was actually awake. Yet he procrastinated and avoided difficult tasks. He wanted to control all the work processes himself rather than delegate. And his own work system was largely paper based, so he was a real bottleneck. He never turned away a customer or a job, suitable or not. He under quoted work to avoid displeasing customers. Richman and his team couldn't stick to timelines. If customers made change requests to live projects, he always tried to squeeze them in. He constantly juggled over stressed workers between projects. He fretted about mistakes and delays, imagining the customers wouldn't tolerate them. He worried that customers would leave bad reviews on Google and sink the business. Team errors made him very angry. Yet, he also feared having to lay staff off. Worry took over his evenings and weekends and he didn't sleep at all well. He wasn't satisfied he was doing his job properly. And he also wasn't really present to his family the way he wanted to be, because he never stopped thinking about work. He constantly wanted to quit the business, just walk away and never look back. And the result was he was depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable and frustrated. He felt hopeless, trapped, it didn't have to be that way. And by the way, after we worked together, he had a massive turnaround. He started to love his work again, perform better than he ever had, and get the financial success that comes with that. But I can really relate to a lot of his experience from my own burnout. So to recap the question then, why did this happen to me? Well, I know there are external factors contributing to burnout. But if they were sufficient to cause burnout, then everybody in an organisation would have it, wouldn't they? Which I don't find to be the case. Essentially, I see the conditions of burnout as pushing super hard to achieve, never being satisfied with our own performance, so pushing even harder. And eventually we become exhausted, demoralised, and have our flame out. At which point, do we choose to take care of ourselves? No, we still got the wick in one hand right? And sometimes the last choice, some adverse life or family event, or sometimes chronic stress alone pushes our body and mind to breakpoint. But in any case, we're forced to confront our own human fallibility and limitations, and it shatters our self images, the fixer. We feel like we failed as a man, the broad shoulders just weren't broad enough, and we crash. So that's basically how I see the internal driver for burnout. And what we're doing next time, we'll look at, while I'm here even now, telling you about all this. What I discovered about fixing burnout. And for those of you who can't bare the suspense, all of you probably, here's the spoiler. Burnout can be fixed easily, quickly, and reliably. Fix it once, get your mojo back, stay out of burnout forever and go on to be super performer and love your job again. So if you're in professional burnout, you already have all the skills and attributes to recover. I can show you how, and next episode I'll begin talking about the solution. If you need help now, stay on for the link at the end. Thanks for listening today, really appreciate you being here. You can visit my website at dexrandall.com for the show notes, and please subscribe and rate this podcast. If you're in burnout and you're ready to get out, if you want renewed passion and success, well, come and join my Burnout To Leadership program. You can book in to talk to me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.