Updated: Nov 9, 2022
In frank discussions with managers who are my direct reports, it seems to me that they are burned out. I understand that they have been carrying a big load during COVID and with work from home and now hybrid teams. I’ve pushed them to take some time off, but it hasn’t seemed to help as much as I would hope. What can I do to help my managers?
I’m glad to hear that you are aware of the problem and are motivated to help them. Unfortunately, as you’re noticing, the research shows that vacations/time off doesn’t help reverse burn out in the long run. Let’s separate out a few issues that might be going on. One is burn out, which I’ll address near the end.
Needing to Manage Differently
Another issue is, as you point out, the particular challenge (which can feel like a burden) for many managers these days is learning to manage either remote teams, a mix of remote/in person teams, or teams who are, together, sometimes in office and sometimes working remotely. Each of these configurations requires different managerial skills. And this is after figuring out how to manage teams during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Do More With Less—and That Goes For Your People, Too!
A third issue is doing more with less—in our current economic climate, man organizations are either downsizing, not filling open positions, or in some other way asking employees to do more with less. This is on the heels of many employees having be working to or over capacity during the past three years. You may need to put on hold some work that you wanted done. When you prioritize when you need done, managers can then prioritize their teams. But this means that some tasks, by necessity, will get put on a back burner.
To help address burn out, I recommend this article in Harvard Business Review, which address three types of burnout: overload, under-challenged, and neglect burn out, and what to do about it. Your folks may have the first and third.
Solicit Feedback: Set Goals for Yourself
Finally, if your managers are burned out, ask yourself what you can do differently. Have you been / are you noticing and conveying your (specific) appreciation for the work they do? Have you been / are you helping them prioritize? What type of resources and support are you providing to them to help them and their teams? Let your team members know what you see, and ask them for feedback about the aspects of their jobs that particularly contribute to their work feelings like a slog. Then ask them how you can help.
Disclaimer: This question and response is provided for informational purposes only, and you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. It is strongly recommended that you immediately seek legal or other professional advice if you believe you are experiencing a problem requiring professional assistance. Robin Rosenberg and Live in Their World, Inc. disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on Dear Robin content.