I recently had a good discussion with a former client of mine–one of those wonderful people you can reconnect with instantly. He had been my client both times he had lost his job, and we discovered that we enjoyed working together. As I was telling him about my work speaking to help organizations stop burnout, he asked me: “Won’t you look weak? Isn’t it just whining? Shouldn’t you just do your work and be a trustworthy team player?”
Wow–tough questions. My quick answer: “No, no, yes and no.” So, are you weak if you admit to burnout? No, you’re smart. Burnout is real, it’s physical as well as emotional, and will disrupt your work if you ignore it. If we look at the classic definition from Christina Maslach, it’s “lost energy, lost enthusiasm and lost confidence.” But we all know, it’s smart to pick the right person to talk to about burnout. Some will get it, others won’t. Find an advocate who will help you turn it around. (This may not be your boss.)
Is this whining? No, it’s recognizing that we aren’t machines and that inner and outer pressures can wear us down. The major difference between whining and admitting to burnout is that whining makes you a victim. It’s always the fault of someone else. Not so in owning up to burnout. And people who whine often really enjoy it and stay stuck. Again, not the case in recognizing burnout and taking steps to make your life better.
And the last question: Shouldn’t you just do your work be a trustworthy team player? Of course, but to be a creative and productive team player you have to take care of yourself. Your resources are finite–you can’t be all things to all people. (Trust me on this one–I tried!) To really contribute to your organization, you’ve got to be energized, enthusiastic and confident, and it’s your job to make that happen.
Maybe it’s a paradox. You have to admit to something that can feel like a weakness in order to be strong. You have to set limits to be able to grow and exceed what you’ve done before. You earn the respect of others by being willing to disappoint them. Tell me what you think.
(Image courtesy of Getty photos)