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Buffering Against Burnout

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Buffering Against Burnout

It is more important than ever to learn how to identify burnout and especially, how to buffer against it. Drawing from her deep knowledge of human behavior, Stanford University-trained psychologist and Board Certified Leadership Coach, Dr. Jacinta M. Jiménez, will deliver a presentation to reveal 3 key science-backed steps to address burnout in uncertain times.

Her Book: The Burnout Fix

Webinar Summary

“It represents an erosion in values, dignity, spirit, will – an erosion of the human soul”

– Christina Maslach

When our psychological resources, our inner resources that we pull from to thrive and survive through hardship or adversity get taxed, that can set the stage for burnout.

According to the WHO, “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Burnout is global. It crosses cultures and it has increased even more with the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Dr. Jactina refers to burnout as not being an on-off switch, but rather like a gas tank indicator. It can sneak up on you over time, so it needs to be monitored regularly. It is a mismatch between the nature of our work and our capacity as humans.

When looking at burnout, coaches need to address several questions:
Why: The bigger version of why our client wants to invest in wellbeing and buffer against burnout.
What: What is the client’s goal.
How: Take a look at the three R’s (Recognize, Respond, Replenish) as an antidote to burnout with your client. These can be thought of as proactive risk management before people get “burnt out.”

The three R’s:

1. Recognize – Be able to recognize burnout. Have clients actively monitor for burnout and look at contributing factors. Assess how it is showing up for them and address it up front. The sooner burnout can be caught, the sooner something can be done about it with more psychological reserves and inner resources.

2. Respond – Work with clients to identify any of the following 6 mismatches that are causing the burnout, being specific and granular with the response. Burnout is serious, so we need to look at the “why:”

“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long” – Michael Gungar

There’s an umbrella understanding that the cause of burnout is that people just work too hard, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Burnout is much more complicated than overworking to the point of exhaustion. It can happen from any combination of these six mismatches between our jobs and our capacities as humans:

The Six Mismatches:

  1. Values - Is the organization moving forward in a direction that aligns with the client’s core values?
  2. Fairness - Clear boundaries need to be set and stay true to one’s principles. For example, work, pay, treatment of motherhood, etc.
  3. Workload - A mismatch in what we need to do i.e. the deadline and the resources we have to do it. It could be people, not enough human capital, financial resources, etc.
  4. Reward - It’s very important for us, as humans, to feel like we are making progress in our lives. We are wired this way. Are we being rewarded (financially, socially or intrinsically), given credit or acknowledged, and feel like we are making progress?     
  5. Community - We are wired to connect, and it is vital for our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. It is very serious. If we feel very lonely at work and don’t have a friend to confide in, it can take its toll. We spend so much time at work we need to feel that we belong. This is particularly true for under-represented people including people of color.  
  6. Control - Not being given the appropriate level of responsibility or having access to the tools needed to do your job well can limit your sense of control. Uncontrollable events can significantly affect motivation. If you can’t predict or influence what’s going to happen to you then you may give up.  

As a coach, which one of the six mismatches is the person you are coaching talking about the most? As an employer, which one of these are your employees talking about the most?

The more granular you can get with identifying the specific cause of the mismatch, the more precise a client’s response can be.

3. Replenish – How is your client incorporating a little respite into one’s day and recognizing where he/she is at. Resilience is how you recharge and replenish, not how you endure. Taking short breaks for mindfulness, meditating, practicing yoga, going for a walk, playing fetch with your dog, etc. Stress in small doses leads to growth and enhanced performance.

Chronic stress without recovery puts us in the Danger Zone. This can happen easily in today’s modern day working life where we are always connected and can always be working.

“When you stress you must rest” — Your body doesn’t know the difference between joyous stress or angry stress. Whether you just saw a bear in the woods, got scared, went into fight or flight mode, and your sympathetic nervous system took over, or if you just completed a challenging fitness workout, your body still sees this as stress. 

Takeaways for Coaches

  1. Really tune in to your clients with your radar on to the three components of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism and inefficiency) and see how it shows up for them.
  2. Great coaches do not motivate clients, they spark motivation that already exists in our clients.
  3. Understand the three R’s and the six mismatches that lead to burnout and be able to work with your coaching clients to reveal and address which mismatches are showing up for them.
  4. We as coaches can help make significant change and help people build out resilience capabilities.
  5. The time is now. As coaches we can help bring change to an organization. People are isolated and stuck.

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