23% of UK employees considered quitting due to burnout in the past week. As a line manager or leader, it's essential that we can spot the warning signs (it's a master of disguise), and know what to do about it, to prevent it. But there's a problem: psychological safety at work legislation creates a paradox that can unintentionally undermine our burnout prevention efforts.
What You'll Cover Today On The Impact of Psychological Safety At Work And Burnout:
- The paradox of how psychological safety at work can actually undermine burnout prevention, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea
- How burnout affects individuals, teams, organisations and home life - warning signs for line managers and leaders
- What the latest research says about burnout and the hidden metric in your organisation that most companies don't realise is predicting it
- Why this paradox only exists because we're fixing the wrong thing with both burnout and psychological safety at work
- Why the solution lies in deeply addressing the three pillars of burnout
- Simple actions you can take today to turn this around, more quickly and easily than you might imagine
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Which of the three pillars could be driving burnout?
Prefer To Read? Here's The Transcript:
Note: this is AI-generated, so please forgive any typos.
Welcome to episode 29 of The Soultuitive® of Leaders podcast. Today, we're looking at the paradox of psychological safety at work and how there are unforeseen consequences that could be undermining burnout prevention in your team. So this episode is for you if psychological safety is important to you and your organisation, and if you're concerned that you or team members or colleagues might be at risk of burning out, welcome. So what we're going to cover today is the issue that those are paradox. Psychological safety at work can actually undermine what we're doing to try and prevent burnout, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.
We're going to talk about how burnout affects individuals, teams, organisations and home life. And important warning signs that line managers and leaders need to be able to spot. Why? This paradox only exists because we're fixing the wrong things with both burnout and psychological safety at work. Why?
The solution lies in deeply addressing the three pillars of burnout and simple actions you can take today to start to turn this around more quickly and easily than you might imagine. So let's start by talking about burnout. It's a sliding scale. A lot of people think burnout doesn't happen until you're signed off, long term, sick and potentially even hospitalised. But actually, the warning signs happen much earlier in the process.
Rather than waiting until we're on our knees before we do something about it, we need to assess what's happening when we're feeling depleted, emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted, so you can tell that you're at risk of burnout. If, for example, you go on holiday, you feel refreshed and within a day or two, your energy levels are back to where they were before you even went. Things that we think might help with burnout, self care and stuff, that's only temporary fixes. You're going for a massage, a bubble bath. Whatever it is we do to top up our batteries doesn't actually work to fix burnout once somebody is on that sliding scale.
I'll talk about the two types of energy and battery in a moment. But first, I've been running a research study, long term into burnout and Imposter syndrome, for the last two and a half years. And I need to share with you a very scary statistic. At the time of recording this episode in January 2023, I wonder what proportion of team members have been considering quitting due to burnout in the last week? If you were to look round your team, if you were to look round your wider organisation, what proportion of people do you think have seriously considered quitting their job in the past week due to burnout?
That figure is 23%. Nearly a quarter of UK employees have considered quitting their job due to burnout in the last week alone. Now, here's the thing. Those who are considering it daily or most days is one in ten. One in ten people are so concerned about burning out, they're considering quitting their job every day.
There's been a lot of talk in the media lately in the UK about quiet quitting and how people are disengaging. Now, I have a point of view over that phrase because actually, quiet quitting can often just means somebody has stopped overworking, stopped over giving. But a lot of people are no longer able to perform to their full potential because they are burning out. So I talk about there being two types of battery. We have the day to day battery, the energy that we need to use in a normal typical day, and things like sleep and general selftalk top that up so that the next day that battery is ready to use.
We also have what I call the crisis battery, which is like a backup battery that we can draw on in times of huge challenge, where we need to show more resilience, and topping up that battery is much harder. So it's really important to make sure that battery doesn't get drained unnecessarily. But here's the problem. And this has happened in part because of things like the COVID pandemic. People have been running on adrenaline for years and the body is only designed to do that for minutes.
And when we're in the fight-flight-freeze response from the sympathetic nervous system where everything feels like a threat and we're firefighting, we're using and drawing on that crisis battery instead of our day to day battery. And then doesn't matter what we do to top up the day to day battery because we're not topping up the crisis battery, we end up feeling even more exhausted and depleted, which is why you come back from that holiday and you're exhausted again within a couple of days of seeing your inbox. So what we need to do is actually look at what can we do to prevent the crisis battery from being used unnecessarily. Now, there are things we can do to top up the crisis battery, but they require us to go a lot deeper than a beautiful bubble bath. So for me, for example, I can top up that type of my battery through playing instruments.
I love singing, I love dancing in my kitchen. Luckily, my neighbours can't see me most of the time. I am learning the bass, guitars, things like that, that really reconnect me with the essence of who I am and allow me to be creative without judgement. That tops up my crisis battery. Or, for example, I'm a meditation and yoga teacher, so going on a deep retreat can top up that crisis battery. And I found last summer whitewater rafting in an Italian glacial lake with my kids.
Or not the lake with the river. That tops up my batteries too. But that's not something I can do every day. These things that top up that crisis battery tend to require a lot more time and effort. So being able to prevent that battery from being drained is absolutely critical.
This is why we need to be addressing burnout as soon as we feel the symptoms to prevent it, rather than waiting until we're genuinely on our knees and barely able to function. And on an individual level, burnout affects our ability to concentrate on a neurological level. It makes it harder to think straight, we make more mistakes, so we try harder. This all triggers Imposter Syndrome, which, as you know, is one of my core topics. It can affect our home life and relationships.
We become irritable, critical, more easily triggered and provoked in teams. It can turn team members toxic. It doesn't take an awful lot of negativity for someone to drag down a previously happy team. They need supporting rather than criticising. Yeah, organisations.
It affects productivity, creativity, innovation, relationships with clients, profit, staff retention, and it can cause the breakdown of marriages and even lead to things like abuse. So for 23% of the UK's working population to be currently feeling so close to burnout that they're considering quitting their job due to it every week means we have a huge problem that we've got to stop ignoring. One of my clients, one of my students on my Imposter Syndrome Master Coach certification programme, was sharing a story with me last week about a dear friend of hers who has burnt out and is not really functioning anymore. And by that point, yes, there are still things that we can do to help that friend, but they require much more effort and you need to go much more slowly. And once somebody is hospitalised and they're on medication, it makes that whole recovery process slower and harder.
So the sooner we can catch this on a preventative level, the better it is. But here's the paradox. My research studies and, frankly, common sense have shown me it takes real guts to ask your line manager for burnout help. By the time somebody gets to this stage, they're a long way down that sliding scale. And one of the reasons people feel afraid of asking for help is the taboo.
They're scared it'll be career limiting because we have a society and a culture where pushing and forcing and firefighting and working hard and presenteeism really matters. People are concerned if they go to their line manager or HR saying, hey, I'm scared of burning out, that that's the end of their career. And here's the problem psychological safety at work. Work legislation makes this a self fulfilling prophecy. If you go to a line manager saying you're burning out and you're super stressed and perhaps you're worried about your mental health or your wellbeing, your organisation, your employer is then required to take actions to make sure this cannot be worse.
You might find that your workload gets reduced, you're working shorter hours, you're no longer given a stretch project, nothing that would increase your stress levels, for example, a promotion. And you might even find that HR, your line manager, need to share this with your colleagues to make sure that you're not being overloaded. So it's an unintended consequence of the extremely valuable psychological safety at work legislation that it can actually put people off from raising their hand early enough with burnout to do something to easily prevent it. And I'm sure you can think of examples in your own organisation of the kinds of actions that you would normally take due to psychological safety or work legislation if somebody came to you with burnout or even imposter syndrome, and how knowing that these might then be the actions can hold somebody back from asking for the help they so desperately need. So people stop speaking up and we are heading towards a burnout epidemic.
If one in ten is thinking daily about quitting their job due to burnout, that means we have a really serious issue. But the thing is, you don't see it necessarily in long term sick figures. One of the clients that we're working on to help address this has found that called us in because they found that their leave of absence and sabbatical requests were skyrocketing. So you'll often find that people who are really heading fast track towards burnout will ask for leave of absence or they'll ask for a sabbatical rather than asking for help with preventing burnout. So that was their metric, their warning sign.
Another organisation I'm working with was finding it really hard to retain the best employees. They were quitting and they could see that they were either going off to freelance or stop working, or down skill and down level the job that they were in, which is another classic warning sign that somebody is burning out. It's a coping strategy. So what is the solution? Instead of looking at the person as being the problem for burnout, we need to consider all three pillars.
So my research studies helped us come up with a model for the three pillars of burnout. These are culture, environment and habits. Culture might be an organisational culture, there might be some national culture, faith based culture, family culture. The culture in which we work and live has a direct impact on burnout. So, for example, one of the traditional bits of British culture is the stiff upper lip you push on through, you don't complain until frankly, you're taken off work long term sick.
That can really add to the risk of burnout. Or if an organisation is really fast paced and driven and there's no acceptance whatsoever of ever making a mistake. And people feel they're constantly being judged and criticised, which is something we're also measuring in the research study. This culture can lead to burnout. If you've got lots of people going on sabbatical, leave of absence, long term sick, then chances are their colleagues are covering their workload and the culture that expects them to do this increases the work, increases the risk rather of burnout.
The environment pillar is the practical experience of the culture. It's like the practical physical embodiment of the culture. What does that actually mean? So if we're looking at that from the point of view of burnout triggers in some organisation, it can be the pings, it might be team, it might be slack, it might be some other way that people get notifications. Their screen is constantly flashing at them, they're trying to concentrate on work.
And I remember a meeting with one of my mentoring clients late last year. In a 1 hour mentoring session, there were over a hundred pings. Every single one of them wanted her attention, and the company culture that had led to that environment at the pings expected her to respond quickly, even though she was at C-suite level. And the environment can also be our physical working environment, whether that's in an office or whether that's at home. For some people, they do perform and work better at home if their home is conducive to working, rather than juggling childcare, working on the kitchen table and all the other distractions.
For some people, the office environment is better for working, but for others, for example, people like me who are introverts, who I mean, I love meeting people and being on stage, but it takes a lot of energy and I recharge and think best with quiet time. An open plan office environment for people like me is actually a nightmare. And I remember back in my corporate days, I used to get in at six in the morning before anybody else showed up so I could have a couple of hours of quiet to get my day's work done before all the interruptions came. And there's another really important factor in environment, and it overlaps with culture, which is toxic team members or managers. We don't like to talk about this, but they're there when you talk to people and just say, hey, is there anybody on your team or your wider organisation who's toxic?
Who's causing you stress? The vast majority of people can name at least a few, and there's often somebody who's in a position of authority or has some kind of control over that person who is regularly causing them what we call toxic resilience, where you have to bounce back and pretend you're okay. But what happens in a situation where you've got toxic team members or toxic managers is it puts people into that fight flight freeze response and means they're drawing on their crisis battery in order to be able to cope with day to day things. Another culture, one is criticism. Even if it's constructive criticism, criticism is an enormous trigger.
I've got data on this which I'm really happy to share with you. If you want to have a meeting about how I could support your organisation, there's a link in the show notes on how to book a call on this, and I've got a scorecard. If criticism is part of how feedback is given in your organisation, make sure you do my feedback mastery scorecard it gives you your score and it gives you a personalised action plan for improving it and helps you to understand how constructive criticism can be so harmful can actually drive burnout. The link for the Feedback Mastery scorecard is in the show notes for this episode. So if you're listening to this on my website, just scroll down to the resources.
If you're listening on your favourite podcast app, click the link to get to the show notes and you'll find the link to do the scorecard. And then we get to the third pillar. We've had culture and environment, and the third pillar is habits. Personal habits. There are things that we do as human beings that can make us more likely or less likely to burn out.
Two people can experience exactly the same situation. One of them might burn out and the other one might not. So this is why it's incredibly important to work on the culture and the environment, because you can't just tell someone to take some time off and have some smelly salty baths and chill out and rebuild their batteries if they're going to come back to a toxic working environment that's leading to burnout, or an absolutely unrealistic workload. But there are personal and physical habits that increase the risk of burnout. And this is the work that I do with people, one to one.
So we have a coaching programme to prevent burnout that can create huge breakthroughs in just a few weeks. And I also have my Burnout Prevention Toolkit, which is an online programme where people can learn to clear the habits that they didn't even know they were running that lead to burnout. And this runs on a number of levels. It's based on my science backed natural resilience method programme and it looks at being able to reset the stress response at a very deep level. So we stop draining the crisis battery, then looking at the thoughts, the self talk, the what-iffing, the the mind story drama, as I call it, the inner catastrophising that switches back onto the crisis battery so we can clear that, so we can get back in flow present in this moment, just using the daily mastery.
Then we work on clearing the body's addiction to adrenaline. Because when someone's heading to burnout, they've been using adrenaline to keep going. Every cell in the body has started to rely on that. And if it doesn't get its adrenaline fixed, it will make you sink thoughts and take actions to give it an adrenaline hit. So dealing with those habits, it takes as little as a few weeks, you can create amazing breakthroughs, but if you don't deal with those habits, the person will unconsciously create burnout conditions in their life, no matter what you do with the culture and environment.
So this is why it's so important to address all three pillars and the biggest reason why psychological safety at work can mean that people don't come forward for help with Burnout is because they see in their organisation that most of the time we're actually fixing the wrong thing. We're trying to deal with the surface level symptoms rather than looking at the root cause of what was agitating to create that symptom. And this is really the crux of the work that I do with organisations on deeply clearing and preventing burnout, using the hope matrix and the natural resilience method to grow truly thriving teams. And I've got some resources I want to share with you. If this episode today has resonated with you and you're ready to start taking action either for yourself or your teams, go and read the white paper that I created in 2022 from our Burnout research study.
The link to download that is in the Show Notes. Take my Burnout school card. Find your own personal risk of burnout. Get a personalised action plan. Take the Feedback Mastery school Card if criticism is a really big issue in your organisation, and while we're talking about dealing with root causes rather than surface level symptoms for burnout, it's really important if somebody is heading to Burnout to talk to them about Imposter Syndrome.
In our research study, we found there is a causal link between Imposter Syndrome and burnout. You increase burnout, Imposter Syndrome gets worse, you increase Imposter Syndrome, risk of burnout gets worse. But the brilliant thing is, if you decrease Imposter Syndrome, you reduce the risk of burnout. If you reduce Burnout, you decrease the impact of Imposter Syndrome. And actually, you can clear out Imposter Syndrome once and for all surprisingly quickly when you work with somebody who's got the right tools.
So it's really important if somebody is burning out, to talk to them about whether Imposter Syndrome is what is driving that. We found that Imposter Syndrome and toxic resilience were two of the biggest risk predictors in somebody burning out. So if you've got a team member who you think might be burning out and running Imposter Syndrome and you're like, oh my goodness, how do I raise this conversation without them running around the corner and hiding every time I walk down the corridor for the rest of time? I have a free advice guide for you on how to raise the topic and five super common bits of advice not to give that make it worse than what to say instead. And you can find the link for that in the Show Notes for this episode as well if you want to find out more, I also have a free five day Natural Resilience Method Kickstart course that can help somebody depressed pause and start that habit's work to clear Burnout and Imposter Syndrome.
Link to that in the show notes. And if you want to talk about your organisation really doing something to measure the current impact of burnout to create a scalable action plan to start turning this around really quickly. For example, training experts inhouse to be able to support people individually with burnout prevention and looking at the cultural and environment driver factors, seeing which of those are actually the quick wins and the biggest wins for you. So you can start changing things in the next month or two for people. Let's book a call.
Yeah, I've got solutions that can help, including a fast track hybrid coaching programme that can start turning this around for people at a really deep level in under six weeks. So that wraps up what I wanted to say today for psychological safety at work and preventing burnout and how the two of them can end up banging heads. We're talking about this over on LinkedIn, so click the link in the show notes. Join in the discussion. I'd love to hear from you.
How do you psychological safety at work work risking undermining our burnout prevention efforts? And I'd love to know how do you, as an organisation, identify and deal with burnout so people don't have to get to the stage where they're asking for Sebastian Call some leave of absence as a coping strategy, hoping it will go away. I hope you found today useful. I will be back next week when we'll be talking a bit more about that topic of criticism and feedback and why end of years. Your appraisals shouldn't wait until December and I want to share some real gems with you on how you can reduce performance review anxiety and actually use feedback throughout the year to skyrocket your team members performance and even your own, really easily and without that secret dread of, oh, my goodness, I need to give constructive criticism.
So I'll see you next week. Have an amazing week.
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