Employees of every age, race and orientation experienced some level of burnout these past 18 months.
But what about manager burnout? How has the novel coronavirus and this type of burnout impacted leaders and middle managers across the country?
Whether it was a manager, director, SVP or CEO at your organization, the chances are more than fair that they’ve felt the lingering torment of COVID-induced burnout.
First, employee burnout happened
If you’re an employee who’s been in the workforce for a while like me, it’s not a stretch to assume you’ve struggled at least minimally from burnout during your career. Most of us are all too familiar with the legion of causes that can lead directly to a burned out employee:
- That mundane, tedious project that’s taking forever
- A team lead who mercilessly micromanages your every task
- Toxic team dynamics in a dysfunctional work environment
- Increasingly tight and often ridiculous deadlines
The list is an extensive one, and depending on the job, employees are typically suffering from multiple levels of burnout, especially in this pandemic-addled world. Therefore, it’s safe to assume nearly everyone has had their fair share of the fatigue, exhaustion, weariness and/or sheer depletion of interest over the last year and a half. Take your pick!
Leader burnout soon followed
Since employees and managers are both humans, it stands to reason that manager burnout would eventually follow suit. And boy did it ever. With a vengeance, in fact. During this Great Unknown and regardless of management level, not a single leader, executive or manager has been impervious to burnout. However, it’s important to note that these “higher ups” are not immune to the burnout felt by the majority of employees today.
Stats don’t lie
Just how big of a problem is manager and executive burnout? The statistics are as sobering as they are serious.
- 66% suffer from burnout.
- 76% are overwhelmed.
- 59% feel overworked.
- 72% feel increased pressure to deliver.
- 59% are working longer hours.
- 84% internalize fault for high employee burnout.
- 91% are having trouble working remotely, compared to individuals and executives.
- 89% of HR executives agree managers must lead with empathy in a hybrid model, but investments in managers are floundering.
- 68% of HR leaders agree the hybrid work model responsibilities are overwhelming for managers, but only 14% of companies took action to reduce manager responsibilities.
- Although more junior and senior managers felt more productive working remotely, only 60% felt they could manage their workload.
- Over the past three years alone, burnout has increased so dramatically that the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).
- With the high level of “responsibility, stress and unreasonable expectations” most organizational leaders can experience, this segment tends to be “especially vulnerable to burnout.”
- Within the finance industry, nearly two-thirds of managers know what burnout is firsthand because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A startling 25% have considered quitting their job as a result.
- The future of traditional office working was also revealed to be in jeopardy as 75% of managers in finance said they would like to work from home – at least part-time – on a permanent basis.
- Manager burnout isn’t limited to the states. As many as 61% of managers in the UK reported suffering from exhaustion and burnout since the beginning of COVID.
- According to 2020 and 2021 survey data from Gallup, “manager burnout is only getting worse.”
What’s at the root of manager burnout?
It’s true that employee burnout and manager burnout are similar, but they are definitely not one in the same. Burnout within the management sub-segment of the workforce can be seen as potentially more threatening, because this group is directly responsible for leading teams of others.
Click’s Head of Marketing, Michelle Graham, sums the major issue at hand. “Managers – particularly middle managers – are in a uniquely precarious position. They’re looking out for their team below while trying to solve problems for the team above. And all of this is done simultaneously,” she said. Graham stresses it’s the seniority and significance of middle managers which is suffering most, because they’re ending up burning the candle at both ends.
As they do their best to suck it up amidst the everyday chaos of our rapidly changing world, many middle managers avoid bringing their problems to executives altogether. They’re trying to solve their own employee retention problems. Sadly, they’re seeing more failure than success.
“Why? Because they don’t have time to breathe. And if they don’t have time to breathe, how are they supposed to create meaningful experiences for employees? They can’t,” Graham said.
“As a result,” she continued, ”they’re looking up and down. But they’ve lost all sight of their own satisfaction, growth and balance.”
Taking meaningful action
It’s painfully apparent that managers are struggling on every level these days. Alleviate the pressure by connecting managers with the tools and technology to deliver seamless experiences for their employees. When equipped with the right resources, managers no longer have to worry about manual employee check-ins on Day 1 and countless other monotonous, time-consuming tasks.
Give managers a well-oiled machine that prompts them and offers checks in from their leaders. Managers need to be treated as employees and also deserve to have optimal employee experiences.
Additionally, Harvard Business Review recommends that executive leadership make a concerted effort to improve their experiences. “Top management needs to retrain, refresh, and reinvigorate these managers as quickly as possible by getting them to seminars, workshops and other activities away from the organization.”