I was an inspirational speaker at a company event last month where the other guest speaker shared some compelling statistics suggesting that organizations may be exhausting their best employees.
The guest speaker had done internal research with employees of various companies; that research suggested that top performers were given the toughest assignments with the biggest challenges, and they are the most likely to struggle with overwork, and least likely to ask for help or set limits. Below are three suggestions from the groups during the motivational talk to prevent burnout:
1) Balance Employee Assignments
Every leader is aware they have exceptional and mediocre employees, yet somehow they let some employees sneak by with less than ideal performance. In this way leaders reward people (with less work or hassle) for slacking off and while giving the burden to star performers. Overall morale plummets when resentment simmers, as others are vaguely aware of what is going on.
The fix? Balance workloads by pushing assignments equally to all employees. Regardless of attitude or skill, when extra work comes up it has to be equally distributed. Set the bar high for underperformers just as it is set for high achievers and insist on balanced distribution of work.
2) Train Employees to Recognize Signs of Overwork
The inspirational speaker for the company event suggested there are signs of overwork like poor sleep patterns and fatigue that signal that performance may start to slip. Employees need to take responsibility for their own well being by asking for help when needed.
3) Compensate Hard Work
Overwork with no end in sight and no recognition of accomplishments is demoralizing. An employment relationship must evolve to a balanced scorecard where the work put in balances out with pay and other benefits. Expectations between employee and employer must be clear, and when they change ( i.e. when workload increases or decreases) either compensation or other long term benefits should also be adjusted.
The guest speaker advised us that the word karoshi, means “death from overwork,” and it is an international phenomenon. In Japan, where the term originiated, families get compensation when a family member dies from overwork.