Episode 315: Burnout in the Workplace

If you’re an employer in today’s working environment, there is no doubt that you’ve heard of burnout; maybe even experienced it yourself! But what is burnout? Can it be prevented? How do you address it? Listen to Paul Edwards sit down with CeCe Wilson and Amanda Rishor to discuss burnout in the workplace, and how to approach it with all different generations of employees. 


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 


Paul: Wait, are we recording?




Paul: This is an HR inappropriate conversation to be having. Organic dude.




Amanda: Well, hi, Paul.


Paul: Hi, Amanda.


Amanda: And hi, CeCe.


CeCe: Hi.


Amanda: So I wanted to bring this topic to you guys, cause I think it’s kind of everywhere, right now, and I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.


Paul: Is it going to be how you just spent three days snowed in with your boyfriend?




Amanda: I know that was a lot.


Paul: Because you took a break from work.


Amanda: And, you know, what’s really funny is –

Paul: I think our one listener would be interested in that.


Amanda: I think so too, especially because I-


Paul: Let’s get into that. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about what happened during those three days.




Amanda: You know, I made scallops.


Paul & CeCe: Oh!?


Amanda: Yeah, I did. Paul told me how to cook scallops, like. And he’s like, you need to practice beforehand, so that when you’re making them, they’re not, like, absolutely horrible and your boyfriend leaves you.


CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: And I’m like, oh, okay.


Paul: Those are the words I use. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: The exact words he used.




Amanda: Yeah. We played a lot of board games. I painted a lot.


Paul: You painted a lot? Nice.


Amanda: I wanted to go, like, on hikes and stuff, but, you know…


Paul: Snow. 


Amanda: Yeah and I don’t really have warm clothes, I’m discovering. I have like one jacket, and that’s the one I’m wearing now. And in the snow, it’s not very helpful.


CeCe: No, you need waterproof in the snow.


Paul: Okay, so now that we’ve gotten the important things out of the way.


Amanda: Well, wait a second. Wait a second.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Is there more?


Amanda: What did you do on your weekend?


Paul: I…oh! My dad came to visit.


Amanda: Oh, yeah, yeah.


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: What did you do with your dad?


Paul: Well, my dad is a retired Air Force colonel. He’s 86 years old. He is still driving back and forth across the country. I mean, he’s still quite active. We ate. I fed him, and he loves that.


Amanda: [laughing]


Paul:  And we talked about, we may have told a few stories that we’ve told before. 


Amanda: Love that for you.


Paul: Gone over some things we’ve said before. And then, of course, if you are with my dad, you get hourly updates on the weather.


Amanda: Oh! [laughing]


Paul: And it was raining. It was snowing on you. It was raining on us.


Amanda:  I heard. 


Paul: So there was a lot of radar talk and stuff because he was in the Air Force, so he’s got his apps and everything. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: And then at some point, there’s breaking news and it doesn’t matter what’s going on. My dad reads the breaking news.


Amanda:  So I’m sure he talked a lot about that car crash on I-10 that released the, what was that? The nitrogen?


Paul: No, no that happened afterwards.


CeCe: That was just a couple of days ago. 


Amanda: Oh, okay.


CeCe: The nitric acid.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: So, yeah, I spent the weekend with dad and it was actually awesome to catch up with him. It was just a couple of days. I made him pizza from scratch by the way.


Amanda: Oh my God! We just talked about pizza.


CeCe: Yum!


Paul: We just put the pizza…. If you weren’t paying attention in one of our newsletters, we included all the things you need in order to start spending way too much time down the rabbit hole making pizza.


Amanda: Yeah, you should go look at that. It did really well. So if you haven’t seen that? It’s good.


Paul: It did?


Amanda: Yeah, I know. It did really well. People really loved it.


Paul: No, I don’t know if I’m happy about that or not because we sent it in a HR newsletter-




Paul: And people clicked on the pizza link way more than they clicked on the other thing. So I’m not sure that we’re hitting the target audience like we’re supposed to over at CEDR.


Amanda: Shows what people are really thinking about at work.


CeCe: Well, you know, we celebrated National Pizza Day in the office, too.


Amanda: Oh yeah!


CeCe: And that was a big hit. So I’m not surprised that the pizza did well.


Amanda: My God, that was amazing. All that pizza.


Paul: I’m just warning you all. First there was the oven, and then you got to get the peel. The second peel, which kind of flour dough and then there’s all the other things that go with it. So.


CeCe: Or you can have really good ordering skills like I do.




Amanda: I was just gonna say you could download DoorDash!




Amanda: Instead of buying all that stuff. Save yourself some time.


Paul: [Heavy sigh] Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Amanda: Well, okay, so we need to talk about burnout and you know, the reason I bring this up to you is because I feel like you have some interesting opinions on it and I want to kind of dive into those.


Paul: Uh huh.


Amanda: And we’re going to be releasing content on burnout here shortly. So I think it would be, you know, fitting.


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 


Amanda: You know, I find it really interesting because burnout has been a thing since like the 1960s, but ever since the pandemic it’s completely changed in its definition and it’s like really blown up as something that gets used a lot. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Amanda: Not only in the workforce, but just like in life, it seems?


Paul: Yeah. 


Amanda: So what, what I notice when like- What?


CeCe: [laughing] What magical thing happened that made burnout come up in the 1960s?


Amanda: I know right?


CeCe: I’m assuming you mean the concept of burnout.


Amanda: I guess yeah. The concept of yeah, the concept of burnout was starting to get so much more talked about and all that stuff right after the pandemic and during the pandemic. But what’s really interesting about it is it seems that across the generations people feel it and show it differently. 


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: And by generations, I mean, you know, you’ve got the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Z, Millennials.


Paul: Yep.


Amanda: And I mean, if you want to say what generation you’re a part of, Paul?


Paul: I think I’m supposed to be the Boomers. But when I do the analysis, it says I’m not actually a Boomer because I’m 61 years old, but I don’t really, I don’t fit with that group.


Amanda: Yeah, you’re right on the cusp of when it turned to…? 


Paul: I’m right on the. Yeah. 


Amanda: What is it? What are you? Gen?


CeCe: I’m one of those Xennials, so I’m like, on the cusp of old Millenial.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: Oh my gosh. You made up another one? There’s an Xennial?


Amanda: [laughing]


Paul: I hate this. [laughing]


CeCe: Yeah. It’s like, it’s, it’s like a three or four year.


Amanda: [laughing]


Paul: Does that make me more of a Boomer?


Amanda & CeCe: Yeah! 


CeCe: It does. Totally. Because we grew up with technology, but we also remember, like, I, you know, I used a rotary phone at my grandparents house.


Paul: Right.


Amanda: Yeah.


CeCe: I didn’t grow up with technology, but technology kind of grew through my childhood. It was introduced-


Paul: I was an adult. Yeah when AOL popped up. I was in my twenties.


Amanda: Yeah so you’re on that cusp of Baby Boomer and Gen X.


Paul: Yeah. 


Amanda: So it’s just kind of different where you’re at. Is there a name for that?


CeCe: I don’t think so?


Amanda: Xoomers?




Paul: I’m going to work on that. I can’t do it right now. There’s too much pressure to do that right now, but I’m going to come up with that because I can’t have CeCe have her own thing.


Amanda & CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: And you not have yours. I love that. [laughing]


CeCe: I didn’t make it up, I swear. [laughing]


Paul: Okay, so burnout. Are we talking about burnout and? Okay, so burnout and so, so many different context…Because I’m always thinking about CEDR, you know?


Amanda: Uh huh. Of course.


Paul: About this company that I own and run. 


Amanda: Way to brag.


Paul: We’re always talking about…I know.


Amanda & CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: It’s a Boomer –


Amanda & CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: I mean, it’s just so… but I’m always… I mean, the podcast is one thing, and we’re always talking about HR Problems and context and stuff like that. But, you know, CEDR heavily influences what we talk about on this show –


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: Especially when we’re doing kind of the straight up HR question ambush. So I think of it around two ways: Employee Burnout versus Owner Burnout.


Amanda: Yeah, that makes sense.


Paul: It’s all burnout. I think it all has some kind of not great effects on us personally.


CeCe: Uh huh.


Paul: But I think that there are two different things. Like when I worked for a warehouse, when I first needed a job and I was going to college, and I had, you know, I had another job. I was burned out on doing exactly the same thing every minute of every single hour that I worked for that warehouse and that was the job. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: And so I think their challenge and that burnout, what it meant there was that people would get…if you had any aspirations to go anywhere in life, you just couldn’t stay and keep doing that. 


Amanda: Uh huh.


Paul: I mean, it wasn’t even as fun as working in fast food where at least you get to face people and get yelled at. I mean…




Paul: Yeah, it was me and a forklift and whatever it was I was moving around as a kid. So that’s one kind of burnout. And then as an owner, there’s another kind of burnout that I experience kind of on a daily basis. [laughing]


Amanda: Which is…?


Paul: You know, problem, problem. I get burned out on the problem solving sometimes. 


Amanda: Oh okay.


CeCe: Yeah. 


Amanda: Yeah that’s true.


Paul: Like, there’s a never ending stream of problems in the way that you, in the way that one of the things that I do to maybe fight that is I try to empower other people which is code for I make other people deal with the problems instead of me.


Amanda: [laughing]


Paul: But no, no, seriously. I had to get in a mindset that I don’t have to be involved in every single solution to every single problem.


CeCe: Yeah.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: Because I was causing my own burnout by insisting on being in things where I didn’t need to have my hands in it. 


Amanda: No that’s true.


Paul: And then it empowers other people around you. 


Amanda: Sure.


Paul: Other managers, it’s like –


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Don’t come to me with this unless you need to. And most of the time you don’t need to as long as you’re, you know, good at your job and you know how to help.


CeCe: I think that’s a common thing for people that are in positions of authority is you have a high expectations and you know that you can do something yourself and –


Paul: You think you can do it better.


CeCe: Yeah. It’s really hard to let go and let, empower other people to do those things.


Paul: It really is. The smaller you are, the more you want to be involved. And then as you grow, the challenge is not to get involved and I mean it just manifests in every, every possible way.


Amanda: Well, I guess the reason, you know, because employers everywhere are dealing with employees coming to them saying –


Paul: I’m burnt out.


Amanda: I’m burnt out and it seems from the things that I’ve seen online and you know, going through and talking to various different people a part of these various different generations, it seems that Baby Boomers don’t really believe in burnout overall as a whole because they were raised on commitment to work and that’s all you know. You know, don’t, even if you’re not necessarily satisfied at your job, it doesn’t matter. You got to go. You got to make your paycheck and you go home and this is it.


Paul: And that is so gone. You know, those people are not in the workforce anymore. Hardly any of them are even running things anymore.


Amanda: A lot of them are not running things but a lot of them are still in the workforce. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Amanda: Because they can’t afford to retire.


Paul: Well, that’s true. They’re back into the workforce. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: I want to share this before I lose this thought. So one of the things about the term “burnout” is a label. So it’s a way of feeling and a way of being. And there’s nothing more powerful than your words, right? And so the next thing, you have control over a couple of things: whether or not you can be on time to a meeting or to lunch or to work or to meet your significant other for dinner or whatever, whatever that looks like and the words that you use. So I believe that it can…one of the ways to fight burnout is to flip the script inside of your business, inside of yourself, and for your employees. And by flipping the script we don’t say, I don’t walk in a meeting and sit down and say, “Hey, everybody, I know everybody’s feeling really burned out right now because you’ve been working very hard and I know it’s hard and I know that we’ve had these problems and I know that we keep trying.” You know, I don’t focus on the burnout side of it. I take for granted that everybody’s focused and they’re working hard and that it can cause burnout. And as a leader for our team, one of the ways I can fight burnout (maybe shorten this explanation) is I insist that you take time away. So I’m making fun of you?


Amanda: [laughing] Yeah.


Paul: For taking three days off a little bit and going and taking a little bit of me-time and spending a little quality time away from work. But it’s like the best thing. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: Did I miss you? Did I, couple times, did I yell your name out and you weren’t there next to me?




Paul: Yeah. Yeah, that happened and when CeCe, when you take time for yourself –


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul:  And He Who Shall Not Be Named, his name is Luke and he’s here working with, Luke. Take, take, you know, when someone’s away and they’re missing, they’re missing. However, it’s super easy for us as leaders to always want everybody around us, and we’re like, kind of secretly glad you’re never gone, because you’re always there to help us out and that’s like, to me, the wrong way to approach. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: So part of the way I changed my language and my attitude is like, CeCe will tell someone “You’re not taking, you didn’t take your time off”. At the end of the year, if they’ve got like eight days of PTO left, we’re like, “What in the world?” 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: You know, why? Why didn’t you do that? That’s what I mean by kind of flipping the script. I will not use the word burnout.


Amanda: Yeah, well, Baby Boomers, we talked about that.


Paul: Uh huh.


Amanda: But then going into Gen X, just to kind of bring forward a point I want you to touch on: Gen X recognizes burnout and knows that it exists but hesitates to talk about it because they don’t think there’s a solution. Then we move to Millennials who are very aware of burnout but are still kind of committed to this lie they were fed about, like, climbing the corporate ladder. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: So they’re like, “Oh, no, I gotta just keep going. I gotta reach my goal.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Guess where Amanda is?




CeCe: I’m going to put my little HR asterisk here. 


Amanda: Do it. Yeah.


CeCe: And we know we’re generalizing. 


Amanda: Oh, of course. 


CeCe: Nobody fits into the boxes 100%. 


Amanda: Of course.


CeCe: This is just the data that…


Amanda: This is just kind of like ‘in general’ thing. But Millennials, the difference with Millennials is they were the generation that started to be more prone to leaving an employer.


Paul: Uh huh.


Amanda: They will give it several years of just like possibly being burnt out that whole time before they do leave, but they are able to leave. And then we go down to our newest generation Gen Z.


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: Where they almost start jobs burnt out and they like come with a list of demands and they’re like, if your company doesn’t offer me this, this, and this, I am already burnt out and I’m not going to work for you.


CeCe: And they’re really open about it.


Amanda: They’re very open about it. Yeah. So it just seems to be getting more and more predominant, you know, as time goes on. And it seems overall consensus that combating burnout heavily lies on the employer. And I know that you had thoughts about that, or at least you did back when I was looking into this stuff. You know, employers need to provide benefits, time off, mental health, usually like some sort of what are they? Wellness? 


CeCe: Wellness programs. Employee assistance programs. There’s all kinds of stuff.


Amanda: Things like that. Like what people are really, really looking for.


Paul: Making it clear that a PTO day is a mental health day, if you want to take it. You don’t need to be sick. 


Amanda: Uh huh. Oh yeah.


Paul: You don’t need to. And if we can pull it off and even though we want you to tell us when you’re going to take vacation and stuff, but if we can pull it off and you pop up on Monday and say, “I’d really like to take a mental health day next Monday, even though I haven’t given, you know, a month’s notice, can I do that?” We want to be a yes if we can.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: You know, I think another thing that combats burnout is when everybody involved is up to something.


Amanda: What do you mean?


Paul: Well, if you’re just coming to work and you’re just doing the job and it feels like you’re doing the same thing and you don’t have a connection to why you’re doing it and what the results are and how it benefits you or benefits the team or any, you know, how it kind of fits into the greater scheme of things? I think that’s a big thing on burnout and that goes all the way back to the, you know, back to the generation that were, you know, born in the sixties and fifties. I mean, they just didn’t have a full connection. I go to work, I do the thing.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: I get the paycheck. I see my retirement growing and I see other people have advanced. I know that when I get to this point, I’m going to be able to stop working here and probably take another job and retire from a second job. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: And that was their kind of a path that they thought that they were supposed to be on. I can tell you when I entered the workforce in 1978/79, I actually entered it a little bit earlier because I…Anyway I…That was gone. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: That was no longer the case, but I spent ten years trying to figure it out and I think that was like when we first started to experience what I have come to learn is underemployment.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Meaning you’re working 40 to 50 hours but you’re just not making quite enough to be able to make ends meet.


Amanda: You know it’s really funny that you say that because a lot of the burnout conversation says that it’s tied to feeling purpose at work.


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: Yeah. 


Amanda: All generations.


CeCe: So that was going to be one of my questions: Do you think that having similar expectations across the organization helps combat that? Because I feel like one thing that I see is if different departments or different groups have very different expectations that a group can-


Paul: Can you define expectation? What you mean?


CeCe: Expectations in like what does our maybe typical day look like? What do our hours look like? What’s the expectation for if you’re hybrid like some organizations are-


Paul: Right.


CeCe: For being in the office versus out of the office. What is the expectation for even collaboration outside of your department? All of those things I think matter in people’s perception of maybe what someone else’s workload or what the expectation is of them versus other people.


Amanda: That’s true.


Paul: And then let’s talk about manager style.


Amanda: Oh, yeah.


Paul: Like one team can have a manager who just is natural at it. They’re very good at it. They’re advanced. 


CeCe: Yes.


Paul: Something. And then another team can have a manager who’s not so great and it’s, you’re going to see burnout. You’re going to see that kind of feeling in that burned out, sort of micromanaged –


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Not great managed team. So, you know, we’re talking to a lot of people out there who have like five or six people on their team. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: So leadership is generally going to be the owner, probably an owner/doctor for most of our listeners. And then it might be at some point another person. You know, they’ve got a manager that’s working in it. So, I think at that point it’s quite manageable.


Amanda: Sure. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Amanda: For our members, it’s also…I think it’s important to keep in mind that or I don’t know, maybe not, you could tell…Anyway. 




Amanda: They have four different generations possibly working for them at one time. 


Paul: Oh gosh! Yeah.


Amanda: You know, the age ranges are so vast right now in the workforce that approaching this topic I think is very different, really, depending on… or maybe it shouldn’t be different? I don’t really know. But like an office or an owner talking to their newly hired 18 year old front desk employee. 


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: That’s feeling burnt out versus someone that’s worked for their practice for 30 years. 


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: You know what I mean? I think that conversation would look different unless you don’t think it would? I don’t know.


Paul: I think that it, I think that the feelings are going to be different. I think you can create a conversation that works with your entire team, but you have to always know your audience.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: Like your communication style has to, you know, it has to match who it is that’s in front of you. I do believe that as more people enter at a younger ages into the workforce, they begin to skew the need to more adhere to what it is they need in order for the job to be good for them. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: You know, I think that that’s important. I just thought of one thing I just wanted to share, like to show a difference. There was a time, even ten years ago, five years ago, and there’s still some people who feel this way, that if a candidate before they even moved through the process very far or at all, wants to know how much this job pays, there was a time when it was like, “I don’t want to talk to you.”


Amanda: I remember that!


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: That was offending.


Amanda: When I was applying to jobs at like 16. 


Paul: They’re like, that’s offensive.


Amanda: Yeah. They were like, “Don’t ask how much this job is going to pay you. That’s not allowed. That’s not okay.”  And I’m like, “Why?”


Paul: We will not reveal that until you have jumped through all the hoops and then we’re ready to offer you the job. And then we’ll tell you what that is. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: And let me just point something out. I could have, I did waste… because I kind of believed in that. Right? I mean, I’m not going to say…In some ways, it kind of makes sense, but it doesn’t really when you put the lens on it, when you put the microscope on it. But I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing people who, when we told them how much the pay was going to be, didn’t want the job.


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: So I spent my time on it. 


CeCe: Exactly. 


Paul: Never mind them saying, “Well, it’s a waste of my time if I don’t know how much I’m going to be making.” It’s a waste of my time and CeCe’s time or anybody who’s involved in this process who doesn’t, you know? People want to know how much they’re going to get paid. I mean, we’ve been talking about this for years. I’m hammering it now. Large organizations do it. Small organizations need to be doing it. “It”, “doing it” is creating pay bands and be as transparent as you can be. And it’s a great tool. It’s actually a really good management tool.


CeCe: It helps take some of the decision making out of every hire. Right? 


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: You’ve got some standardization and then you can hopefully, like you said, it’s a range. So you’ve given yourself some room to use critical thinking and independent judgment. But it takes a lot of the decision making, the hard thinking, out of the equation and combats your own burnout that way, if you’ve got some system set up to take some of that off your plate.


Paul: I was talking to someone one time and they wanted $10,000 more than the top of our pay band.


CeCe: Uh huh. 


Paul: And they were like, “Oh, well, I’m just glad you let me know that because I got to make this amount.”  I had a few questions for them.  But one of my questions was, “Well, convince me. What extra thing are you going to bring to me that would warrant you being paid $8,000 more than my top paid employee in this position who’s on a team and they’ve been here for five years. What would make you worth more?” And they couldn’t answer that question and it was so, it was really easy for both of us to go, “Hey, thanks for your time.” 


Amanda: Yeah. Yeah.


Paul: And we didn’t waste any more time on each other. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: So I mean, we were talking about burnout and then we segued into pay bands and stuff like that. But I mean, it is…


Amanda: I think it’s just the transparency of it all. 


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: Like Gen Z like..is it Gen Z? I get them all confused. Yeah, Gen Z.


Paul: I have no idea what any of them are.


CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: Gen Z is Luke. [laughing]


CeCe: [laughing] Yeah.


Amanda: They, you know, have like I said, that list of demands that they’re looking for and that very much falls in line with pay transparency. They’ll be like, “Okay, what’s the pay range? What benefits are you going to offer me? What’s this, this and this?” and I know that at least from what I see, a lot of our members struggle with hiring because of this.


Paul: Yup.


Amanda: You know, and they don’t really know how to combat that already, like “coming into work burnt out” thing. 


Paul: Yup. If that’s the person’s story, I don’t want them. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: So they’ve adopted that language and they’re using their power to tell themselves that they’re tired, they’re burned out, they’re underappreciated, that every job sucks. Then they can’t work for me. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: And I know we are interviewing for that. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: If we get any hint of that, you’re out.


Amanda: Yeah. It’s a very culture focused thing.


Paul: It is a very culture focused thing. And, you know, I mean, we can’t start from there. And then, like, I would be lying if I said people didn’t get burned out working here for various reasons. Like, they might feel like the warehouse job. Like they’re not getting to do enough things, different things, where they’re just kind of stuck in a rut. They’re doing the same thing over and over again. But we’re always looking for ways to raise people up and to give them something else to be involved in, and looking for that other skill that they have. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: So…But I mean, we’re… American workers are more productive than they’ve ever been. And I think we lose sight of that. What it used to take 35 people to do, you can now do with 23 people in technology. And it means those 23 people are pretty darn busy.


CeCe: That’s what I was going to say. I feel when we’re talking burnout, that’s what I think of is people who just have, because even if you are not manually doing some of those things, technology is kind of doing them for you.


Paul: Uh huh. You’re still in it.


CeCe: You’re still in it. It’s still your responsibility, you still think about it. And so that is the type of burnout that I feel like I see more is maybe the combination of things external to us. 


Paul: Right.


CeCe: So in our personal life, compounded by, you know, the expanded responsibility that really everybody has at work these days.


Paul: Yeah, yeah.


Amanda: Okay, so as just a regular employee sitting with two people that are superior, I would ask –


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Damn straight.


Amanda: [laughing]


CeCe: It was a good day to come on the podcast.




Amanda: What I wonder if either…Okay, so CeCe, what would be your first question, statement, whatever, to an employee coming up to you and saying, “Oh, I’m super burnt out.”


CeCe: So I mean, I guess I would probably ask what that means to them because we clearly can have multiple definitions.


Amanda: Yeah.


CeCe: And the next part of the conversation would probably be, “How can I support you in that? I can’t fix it for anybody.”


Amanda: Yeah. 


CeCe: And like I said, I’m going to guess that what I’m going to hear is that it’s a combination of personal and work, and so I can’t fix the personal and I can’t fix the work, but what I might be able to do is help set up the environment to give you some autonomy to deal with your burnout yourself.


Amanda: Oh, see, and I think that would be good for our members too, because-


Paul: I can’t fix your… I can’t…Look. CeCe, sometimes we can make a manager aware that something that’s going on with an employer within their department is showing up as burnout. But I think you did a really good job. The first thing is “What do you mean by burnout?”


Amanda: Yeah, that’s great.


Paul: Why or how are you burned out?


Amanda: Especially because it’s so different for everyone.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: And then chat about it and I, you know, you never solve, I rarely solve anything in the first conversation. 


CeCe: Right. 


Paul: But the next thing is to enroll them in the solution. Like what could you, what could be different for you in this that would help this feel less like burnout? And if it’s a person whose job it is to answer every call that comes in here and they don’t want to answer every call that comes in here any more then I can’t fix that.


Amanda: Yeah, that’s different for sure.


Paul: But if it’s like the calls are killing me and I say, “Why are the calls killing you?” And the answer comes back to something that we may have done or be doing or could do to make that a little less-


CeCe: Yeah, like sometimes it’s technology.


Paul: Like it’s okay. We’re going to actually tuck in an extra 30 minutes of breaks with you because you’re nonstop on the phone. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: So you guys start coordinating, and one of you needs to be breaking every 2 hours and getting away from the phone. Go for a walk, go down in the gym, go do whatever.


Amanda: See, as an employee, I would like to feel comfortable coming to either of you guys. Just say, “I’m like, super burned out,” you know what I mean? 


Paul: Yeah.


Amanda: And then getting this, I think the conversation alone would be a huge relief. And I think people tend to forget how powerful conversation is. You know what I mean? Even being open to talk about it without making the employee feel bad for being burnt out.


Paul: Or for bringing it to you.


Amanda: Yeah, yeah.


CeCe: Yeah. I mean, and it can be hard because I can see where depending on what the answer is about what is burning somebody out that you might take it personally or you might start thinking like, “How is this going to affect me? Because more than likely I’m feeling some burnout, too.” And so, you know, then it’s a balance of like, how do I help support you but not also make mine or other people’s lives more difficult? And then the work isn’t getting done and it’s a trickle effect. And then it goes back to what I said earlier about having uneven expectations. That is also something that I consider when I am having a conversation with somebody who reports directly to me. Does it maintain the expectations we have across the organization?


Paul: Yeah. Let’s think about the young doctor who’s, you know, been an associate and they’ve just opened their first practice. They’ve just purchased a practice, and they have all that pressure and they’re seeing as many patients as they can see. Some, when we talk about our dentists, some of them are even doing their own hygiene while they’re trying to get a hygienist in, you know, trying to build a-


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Let’s just talk with that person who’s building. And they are the definition of what could be burned out. They’re still in their mid thirties. 


Amanda: Oh yeah.


Paul: They’re young, but they’re seeing patients, they’re dealing with a bank, they’re dealing with everything, you know? They’re having their own employees for the very first time. So if you’re listening to me and that’s who’s listening to me right now, if you hear this, I know how hard it is to be yourself. Oh, and by the way, you have a family, yourself, and you have parents that need you and you have children who need you and a spouse and all these things. And then someone comes to you and [whiny voice] “I’m so burned out”.




Paul: [whiny voice] “I need to talk about my feelings, to talk about my burnout, my feelings.”


Amanda: “Let me tell you about burned out.”


Paul: And it’s easy as a leader to go, “You’re burned out? Let me tell you, with the call I just had with the bank…” 




Paul: So, you know, but that’s what you signed up for. When you become a leader, you’ve got to be able to try to carve out some area to set your own stuff aside. 


Amanda: Yeah, for sure.


Paul: And listen.


Amanda: Love that.


Paul: Being heard. So our youngest generation now, entering the workforce, they want to be heard. But let me be honest with you. People who were born when I was born, we want to be heard, too. That’s how that whole-


Amanda: You just weren’t hesitant about it.


Paul: Well, we’re a little more hesitant about…Yeah. Yeah, maybe. Maybe.


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: A little more hesitant. But resigned, I believe is the word. 


Amanda: Resigned is the word.


CeCe: Yeah. Uh huh.


Paul: A little more resigned that things are the way they are. And I hate to tell everybody out there…So we have four listeners and each one in a different age group. That’s all we have is four listeners.


Amanda: Just the four.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Just the four. We used to have one. We’re up to four. So it’s a big success –


Amanda: It is.


Paul: Overall. Of all of those, as you listen, as I think about all of those people, I…Look, I’ve been around a long time. I am resigned to some things. I’ve seen a lot of things. It is experience and when I was 20 years old and somebody my age would tell me that, I’d be like, you know, it’s the classic “Whatever, dude.” I’m smart. I can conceptualize. I understand the words. I know whatever, but something changes over time and you get more and more experience and I am resigned to certain things. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: And I like to leverage the folks who come in who aren’t resigned. 


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: I recognize that I’m stuck in my ways in certain ways, even though I try to pride myself on growth and all personal development and being open to new ideas. I love the influx of new ideas and even the…And so with that comes there’s a new definition of what burnout means. 


Amanda: Yes. 


Paul: And what it means to work with somebody who’s in their twenties and their thirties.


Amanda: What a good way to wrap this up.


Paul: I love my 20 year olds. Anybody who says that 20 year olds don’t know how to work hard or don’t know how to be responsible…I don’t know who you’re hiring and where you are finding your people. 


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: But I have a lot of people in their twenties and thirties who are killer.


Amanda: Well, as a 28 year old thank you. I assume we’re talking about me.


Paul: No, I’m not talking about you.




Paul: And I have some that aren’t so great CeCe. No…




Paul: I’m just kidding.


CeCe: I know that wasn’t me because I’m not in my twenties so… [laughing]


Amanda: Okay, well thank you guys. I appreciate your time on this.


Paul: I don’t think we solved anything?


Amanda: No, I just wanted to talk about it. That’s the goal.


Paul: Your words are powerful. Be careful with that term of burnout. Might get you. If you’re feeling it, define it. What are you burned out on? And take it. Do what you can to fix that.


Amanda: Yeah. Talk about it. Have a conversation. Be open.


Paul: I’m burned out on seeing patients. Maybe you’re seeing too many patients, cut back a little bit if you can. You know. 


Amanda: Sick.


Paul: An employee is burned out on answering the phones, give them some breaks and then you’re all smart. All the listeners out there are smart. Except for that one.


Amanda: Except for that one. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: You know who you are. [laughing] All right, thank you.


CeCe: Thanks Paul.


Paul: Thanks everybody.

Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? do Paul a favor; share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question, and you’d like us to discuss it on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives.

May 2, 2023

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