Burnout: Are They Tired or Just Not Inspired?

authentic leadership buy-in earning leadership employee engagement employee experience employee satisfaction employees quiet quitting ethical influence influence leadership leadership culture what is quiet quitting Oct 05, 2022
Employees quiet quitting

Since looking at Who’s to Blame last time, my mom shared something she had just seen on Dr. Phil where he suggested that quiet quitting was a societal issue largely caused by lack of initiative on the employees’ part. I usually attempt to be fairly mild and respectful with my language when talking with her but I slipped a little with my response to that and immediately said Dr. Phil was full of shit… I quickly regained composure and qualified my abrupt statement by explaining that I certainly don’t excuse a lack of initiative, but I’m still absolutely convinced that this is far more about ineffective leadership than some sudden scourge taking over our country. After all, making a new name for it didn’t make it a new issue…

As I’ve sifted through resources, attempting to understand all the hype that’s suddenly focusing on this issue, one of the things I’ve seen referenced over and over has been burnout. Make no mistake here, I know firsthand what that feels like! In my last full time role, I was averaging 50 hours a week for my employer and at least that much in our business. Truth be told, I can’t remember a time in the last two decades where I’ve logged less than 60 hours a week between a day job and anything I had going on the side to pay the bills. But the only time I can point to where I truly felt burnt out was during those last several months in that full time role.

I could list several things that likely factored into that; I was tied to a desk far too much and not working out, I had entered my forties, the full time role required a significant attention to detail was sucking the life right out of me (something we’ll circle back to soon), and a empty feeling of not seeing where the work I was doing in the full time role was making a lasting impact on the company’s culture. Quite honestly, I’m sure all of those things contributed to some degree… But looking back, one had a far greater impact than everything else combined!

One of the resources I found from a group called BioMedCentral cited a study on Impact of long working hours on health based on observations in China with regards to health effects the participants of the study were seeing over the long haul. OK, fair enough… While I’ve not been to China, I would expect the working conditions to be significantly worse than what the majority in our great nation are accustomed to. Another article I found from a large leadership training company that I’m licensed with called Development Dimensions International was called 10 Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress. Like the BMC study, the DDI article offered some valid ideas but neither directly tied their issues back to the one thing we as leaders can truly control - if we’re willing to…

I’ll say it once more here for anyone who may have been distracted by murmuring in the back… People do not choose their profession based solely on how difficult it is or the wage it pays them. I’ve known far too many people who volunteer as paramedics and firefighters, and hundreds (if not thousands) who risk their lives on a daily basis professionally for a fraction of what they could earn in the private section - and all of them have also worked long hours!

When considering the idea of burnout, especially when relating it to quiet quitters, I’m 100% convinced that it’s due to being uninspired rather than just plain tired… Call me naive if you want, but I still hold the opinion that the vast majority of Americans take significant pride in their work ethic. This is where I believe that everything truly does rise and fall on leadership! When we draw meaning and purpose from what we do, there will be very few obstacles that stand in our way. But when we’re not fulfilled through those often daunting tasks, burnout is likely close by!

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure our team members understand the impact their work makes on each person they serve - within our organization as well as with external customers. We’ll work through some very specific ways we can do that soon enough. First though, we need to touch on one more thing we’ll need to be alert to and we’ll look at something we absolutely CANNOT do if we really want to lead our teams…