Why burnout is everyone’s problem

As herd animals, we are usually more creative, joyful and productive working in groups. It also comes with a downside – there’s always conflict. For that same reason, we need to realize that we hold a collective responsibility for each other’s challenges and well-being in an organization.

Often leaders/managers have to show how to behave to set the right tone – not the least to build a well-functioning, harmonious and sustainable team. In order to do so, a good leader, just like any employee, should therefore not carry the burden on her/his shoulders alone but take care of oneself first, find your own balance, before helping others.

Me first, others second

In a work context, several important skills have been ranked by both staff and managers as critical for supporting prevention of burnout: self-awareness, self-control, flexibility, teaming, motivation, interpersonal relationships, time management and the overall atmosphere at work all come back to emotion management.

So what to do if someone, you yourself for that matter, feels emotionally distressed? As a rule of thumb, do it like they instruct you on an airplane: put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Think “me first, others second”. That’s not egoistic, but crucial to sustain sanity.

Practice emotional intelligence

Now, emotion management does not mean to not have a particular emotion at all. In fact, it is impossible to decide NOT to have a certain emotion – but we can aim to change our reaction to a particular emotion. That is what emotional intelligence is all about: to understand how to manage and learn from our emotions. Effectively. But how?

Regulating an emotion starts with being aware of it. Becoming aware of an emotion means you first recognise it, and then label it. Only then will you be able to act efficiently i.e. to regulate it. If you do not dig into the nature of the emotion you are having, your feelings are leading you to make wrong decisions. If they only protect the vulnerable part of yourself and boost your ego, your feelings may thus not only be useful, but also counterproductive.

Accepting difficult emotions can make a huge difference

Sometimes situations can escalate among team members and especially between founders. Esther Perel, one of the most famous relationship experts, suggests that 65% of startups fail because of the relationship with co-founders. The ability to stay calm even when the emotions heat up, is a crucial skill in constructive communication. Accepting your painful emotion instead of rushing into action can make a huge difference in difficult situations.

Practice your emotional muscle

Let’s not turn a blind eye to reality, of course – emotional management is still a comprehensive exercise. It requires constant effort, because our surroundings and our own needs change constantly. Put yourself out there and put these newly learned skills to practice. Be your own guinea pig, really – you will be stunned by your potential.

Stay mindful of your values

Sometimes your feelings are leading you to wrong decisions. Your feelings may not be useful if they are only leading you to instant satisfaction or protecting the vulnerable part of yourself and boosting your ego. If you are clear with your values, on the other hand, you act effectively regarding what really matters in a situation. Being mindful of your goals helps you make decisions that maintain your well-being in the long-term.

Don’t be a perfectionist

In a fast-paced and demanding working environment, it is hard to prevent situations that sometimes escalate among team members. Thus, when it comes to relationships at work, don’t be a perfectionist. Yet the ability to stay constructive even when certain emotions cause you pain is a crucial skill in relationships, at work, home or elsewhere. Key ingredients to turn to the next time you are under emotional distress are therefore:

  1. Practice awareness of your emotions and what is triggering them
  2. Accept even the hardest feelings without reacting straight away
  3. Regulate your difficult feelings as effectively as possible
  4. Communicate and make decisions based on your values and not your feelings
  5. Put your newly learned skills to practice every day