Skip to content

Watch Closely For Burnout In Top Performers During Tough Times

Most every day we read the news (notice I said news not newspaper … that’s a whole other story). And, if you’re like me you truly wonder what the latest headlines will hold for the world and for you. In fact, I almost hesitate to look because I wonder how much more uncertainty and change we can process as mere mortals … it’s stressful!

And, even prior to the most recent changes that have impacted our economic and business environment, discussions about stress were already at all time highs. Work life balance wasn’t attainable for most professionals a year ago and it sure doesn’t seem to be in reach now. In fact … remind me again what work life balance even means?

As leaders, these tough times are calling for innovation and determination like never before. That’s why we’re all working as hard as we can to keep our teams together, especially our top performers. You know the ones that I’m referring to … the motivated, tenacious, dedicated, responsible, driven ones … your “go to” team that you never have to worry about performance issues with.

Or, do you? The same attributes that you list as strengths for your top performers can quickly become liabilities during times of uncertainty and change. In fact, the words I used above to describe your top performers came straight from the research I’ve done on the type of people most likely to experience “job burnout.”

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long-term exposure to demanding work situations. Burnout is the cumulative result of stress. It doesn’t just happen overnight. Therefore, the symptoms do not just appear overnight. However, when the symptoms reach a level where your top performers’ interpersonal relationships, ability to function and overall health are being affected, it is very important that you get involved. Burnout is a condition that should be taken seriously because the psychological/physical affects can be extremely serious.

More than ever before, I’m noticing that top performing professionals are communicating more and more about having to do more with less, about being overworked and even about the physiological affects the stress of the times is having on themselves and their teams. Don’t shy away from these discussions … lead them. If last year’s wellness program focused on walking more, this year’s wellness program should focus on talking more. As leaders, you need to be aware of burnout, able to recognize the warning signals and prepared to help your top performers reduce and manage stress. And, as Randy Pausch reminded us all in The Last Lecture, “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” Don’t get so focused on your work and others that you forget to take care of yourself.

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Leadership.

Tagged with .


Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

Connect with Facebook

or, reply to this post via trackback.