February 9, 2022

Tips to Overcome Burnout

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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When you give your all to your work and you find yourself in a culture where being short-staffed is the norm, it’s easy to get burnt out quickly.  You need more than a weekend off or a vacation to rebound. Maybe you’re a leader who is having a hard time managing your team engagement when there is more work than people to do it.

These days employees are expected to do more with less. In this episode, I’m showing you how to proactively prevent burnout as a leader for yourself and your team, but also as an employee. You can be a high performance, deliver on your goals, maintain that reputation, without draining your energy day after day. Whether you’re a leader or an employee, I’ll tell you how in this episode.

What You’ll Learn

How to maintain performance while creating boundaries that prevent burnout

3 ways to lead your team, maintain high performance, and increase engagement even when short-staffed

A proven strategy to deliver at work that is a win-win for you and for the company

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello and welcome to another week of the podcast. I’m so happy to be with you here today. Now, back in my corporate days, when I worked in Pharma, overworking was more like a badge of honor. Not necessarily intentionally, but it was one of those things where, you know, you’d run into someone having a hallway conversation and someone would say they were up until ten preparing slides for a meeting, and the other person would respond and say, yeah, I’ve totally been there. Right now.

We’re prepping for an audit. So I worked all last weekend. I don’t know the last time I had dinner with my family. And the farther you got up the leadership team, the more overworking there was. Our senior leaders seemed to be on 24/7, always available.

And this was prepondemic because I left the corporate world the first part of 2020. So all of this was going on before we had the pandemic. Now we have the pandemic just shy of two years. And the work culture seems to have only gotten worse because now we have people sick, people out unexpected, the great resignation, more and more people leaving their job to start a business or try something new to figure out what they really want or will make them happy. We have inconsistent childcare issues, not being able to do the things that we love and enjoy like we used to, and so on.

So when you add all of this together, it’s just the storm and one that is wiping through companies, creating overworked, stressed employees on a whole new level. So whether it’s my clients through conversations or with my volunteer work with women and bio, I’m hearing over and over that burnout is a problem, that people are stressed and barely holding it together some days. So someone might ask, why not just stop? Why not just put in your typical 40 hours work week and call it a day? Because that’s not your nature, right?

You’re a high achiever. Your career is important to you. You want to do it all. You want to be seen as valuable and as an expert, you want to show that you can overcome these obstacles, that you don’t need help, that you can do it under any circumstance. I get it.

It’s hard to say no. It’s hard to push back. Especially when you see your boss online all hours of the night. There’s what is right or the advice that makes sense that I’m telling you now and then what you think you need to do to get recognized in advance to a certain level in your career. Believe me, I get it.

What I want to offer you is that you can have both. You can have work boundaries, you can prevent overwork and still be a high achiever. So whether you have direct reports or don’t, let’s talk about how to handle burnout a bit more so you can excel in your career, have an engaged team, even with impossible deadlines and without sacrificing your performance. So I’m going to separate this guidance into two parts, one being if you are a team leader, a people manager, and one if you are not, because my guidance is going to be a little bit different for each one. So if you lead a team, I want you to be aware of the message your behavior is sending to your team when you’re sending emails late at night.

And even if you’re telling your team they don’t need to work at night, it sends a conflicting message when you are because they see you the leader, a level they may aspire to be working late, always being on call. And even if you’re trying to protect your employees and tell them they don’t need to behave this way, your high achievers are going to disregard that. Probably they’re going to think that that’s just for the people who aren’t going to go to that next level and they’re going to want to show you that they can do what it takes and they see what you’re doing and they’re going to want to do that too. And it’s going to be confusing for them, but it’s going to be more important for them to get to that next level. So they’re going to try to show you that they can do the things that you’re doing.

So what can you do? I suggest managing your own workload and boundaries, which I’m going to talk about so you aren’t overworking yourself. But if you choose not to do that, if you choose to continue overworking or working all hours of the night, don’t make your overworking visible. If you have an email to send and you’re working at two in the morning, don’t send it at two in the morning, because that’s when you’re working, schedule it to send in the morning during business hours or keep it in your drafts and send it in the next morning manually. You’re going to have employees that get these emails and then have a little stress and think they need to be on call in case you email them.

And we need to let go of the on 24/7 Culture cultures are created from the behavior of the employees. As each employee changes their behavior and expectations for the workplace, the workplace will shift. So be a catalyst and stand out as a leader. Think about how your behavior, how it’s being seen, and how it’s influencing your team, even unknowingly. And instead of go, go stop and see where deadlines can be negotiated, where you can advocate for your team and check in to see what your team needs your employees love delivering for you, but be aware if you’re exhibiting performance punishing behaviors and overworking your high achievers.

Now, performance punishing is a term I used to describe when an employee performs at a high level and is punished as a result by given more work. This happens a lot, whether it’s someone stepping up to the plate when you’re short staffed and then suddenly that other position isn’t back filled and this can happen. I was just talking to a director who has been doing her job and the job of her open management position for a year and a half due to higher increases and lack of qualified candidates. She’s continued to do both jobs and it’s become normalized for her to do so. She isn’t even acknowledged for it anymore because her leadership doesn’t even necessarily see the level of work that she has to do day to day to do the responsibilities of both of these positions.

Or you can have someone who is exceptional at their job and so they’re given the critical projects that are more demanding because you know that they will hit it out of the park and so that person is getting more work instead of training and upskilling your other staff so it’s more equally distributed. Also, remember, we are still in a pandemic and there is a lot of juggling and added stress right now. Your employees may be parents, caregivers, worried about their families and friends. Maybe they’re alone and isolated during this time. You just don’t know.

But regardless of the employee’s personal situation, they are under added stress. Every person is under some level of added stress just because of the nature of what is going on in the world. So leaders, I need you to take a step back and reflect. It’s so common to just go and go. One product becomes another, and then there’s an audit and an important visitor and staffing issues and all the things.

But don’t lose sight of the big picture of how these things are impacting your employees and teams even when they say they’re fine. If your work culture hasn’t adapted to these new ways of working and it’s still kind of in survival mode, be the one to speak up, to look at creative ways to push back on deadlines. I promise your team will be more engaged and your turnover will reduce if you put these suggestions into place. If you need help with this, reach out to me. I can help you.

Leadership and organizational psychology is my specialty. It was the focus of my graduate studies and what I helped leaders navigate and excel in with my coaching practice and when I worked in talent and development in Pharma. So now let’s pivot. If you’re feeling overworked yourself, speak up. Delegate.

Get creative on how you can meet your deliverables. Ask for help and practice saying no, but I can. Learning to say no and push back is a leadership skill imagine if your leadership said yes to every request, it would be impossible. You may be overworked right now because they say yes more than they should, but you don’t have to. It will be hard.

It’s not in your nature to say no, but your health and well being are critical by saying no, but you can offer something that you can do. For example, I can’t get the reports on by Friday, but I can get it done by Wednesday next week. How does that sound? If someone in leadership is making the request and I hear this a lot like, what if it’s my boss saying this? I don’t feel like I can just say no or push back on the deadline.

So in that situation, then I would say I can deliver this by Friday. If I delay and then choose something X, Y or Z, which do you think is least priority? You’re just negotiating. You’re getting everything done. But your leadership and stakeholders need to understand that you can’t do everything at the same time and under tight deadlines.

So get help to prioritize where you need to. When you master doing this, you’re going to be seen as a strong leader and earn a lot of respect. You’re also taking care of yourself and role modeling for others. Now the other thing to remember is you’re not responsible for another company’s lack of resources. The company you work for is not your company.

If they are short staffed, if there isn’t enough time in the day, if they make poor planning decisions, you are not the savior that needs to sacrifice your own health and wellbeing to deliver. Be politically savvy, communicate well, come from a place of being a team player and what you can do, and it will be well received. You’re not going to be penalized when there is literally too much work to do in a typical work week or work month or work day. And unfortunately, the more you over deliver, the more you will be expected to it becomes the norm and it’s not done on purpose. I don’t think that managers and leaders are out there conniving like, let’s just see how much we can overwork them.

But I think when times are tight in human nature and corporate culture, there is more put on employees. And when you rise to the occasion time and time again, that becomes the norm. Like the example of the director where she’s been doing two jobs for a year and a half. So it’s really up to you to manage. So if you’re feeling burnt out, speak up.

Look at your schedule and your needs. Ask for help at home and at work. Practice, compromising and negotiation. These are skills that you will need at every level. And if you’re someone who feels like they don’t have time for themselves and are drowning just trying to make it all work and you’re not seeing a way out or just want some help to accelerate your career on your terms.

Get in contact with me, send me a message on LinkedIn or schedule a consultation call. I’ll drop that link in the show notes because team engagement, high performance and work boundaries can all coexist. You just have to have the right strategies to be able to navigate the workplace so you keep your high performer status while also taking care of yourself in the process. All right, have an amazing week.

Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. I truly hope you enjoyed it. If this episode resonated with you or helped you in any way please share it on your social media and tag me. I love seeing what’s you’re up to. Also please make sure to subscribe and leave a review and until next time have fun navigating your career knowing the life you want is totally possible.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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