Addressing Employee Burnout: Are you Solving the Right Problem? | McKinsey Health Institute

Leadership & Culture

Worker burnout is at an all-time high, according to various reports. Characterized by a chronic imbalance between job demands and resources, burnout results in extreme tiredness, reduced ability to regulate cognitive and emotional processes, and mental distancing. And while many organizations are admirably investing in mental health and well-being efforts that focus on addressing individual symptoms of burnout, this article provides ideas on how firms can explore and address the organizational causes of burnout. It argues that employers can and should view high rates of burnout as a powerful warning sign that the organization—not the individuals in the workforce—needs to undergo meaningful systematic change. These systemic causes of burnout can range from toxic workplace behavior to ineffective organizational systems, processes, and decision-making. The authors offer eight targeted questions to help identify organizational causes of burnout. A few of these questions include: 1) Do we effectively address toxic behaviors? 2) Do we promote sustainable work and manageable workloads? 3) Are we effectively tackling stigma that impedes people from seeking help for mental health needs? Leaders can use the eight questions to spark discussions that help develop and implement strategies to address the systemic causes of worker burnout. As a bonus article, I am resharing here an MIT Sloan Management Review article that shares research findings on how employees describe five aspects of a toxic culture.

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