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Employee Burnout - 5 March 2015

Here’s what's curious about stressful events. Every team has them but they affect the members of that team very differently. For some employees, the existence of a traumatic episode leads to burnout, which means they become exhausted and their productivity plummets. But then there are those who experience the same thing but with the opposite effect. Rather than feeling burnt out, they instead feel engaged, energetic and focused.

Why is that and how does it happen? A new study published in the Journal of Psychology gives us the answer. The researchers studied over 1000 employees and discovered the difference between the two reactions comes down to self-efficacy.

Employees who are high in self-efficacy feel as though they have greater control over their environment. This is because they have enough faith in their abilities to know they’ll overcome the problem. Actually, they don’t even see problems as problems; they see them as challenges. Motivating challenges. This is especially the case if they believe the experience will teach them something valuable for their personal growth.

But when employees have low levels of self-efficacy, they’re more likely to be pessimistic and to subsequently experience anxiety. You can imagine, then, that such sustained feelings can lead to burnout. After all, they’re too depleted and distressed to persevere or to trust that they have what it takes to get through the drama.

Here are three ways to increase self-efficacy in your team.

Create mini-experiences: Some employees have been sheltered for too long. This means that when a stressful event eventually materialises, they’re mentally unprepared to deal with it. So don’t wait until then. Start now by delegating challenging tasks, tough projects and big responsibilities so that they get some practice in enduring stress and pressure.

Teach vicariously: Many leaders think they must put on a happy face and protect their employees from the stress they’re personally experiencing. Not true. Use what you're going through as a lesson by explaining to employees what they could learn from it should it ever happen to them. By demonstrating self-efficacy yourself, your employees get it by osmosis.

Verbally encourage: It’s incredible – really – how frequently leaders underestimate the power of their language. The words you use are potent. What you say and how you say it determines whether employees think they’re hopeless losers or whether they genuinely believe they have sufficient talent and fortitude. The latter is what self-efficacy is all about.

Of course, some employees lack self-efficacy for good reason. Maybe they’re in the wrong job or perhaps they’ll just never have the aptitude to deal with the stress of your workplace. For the rest, however, there’s hope. Just be careful you’re not placing them in the wrong basket.

To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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