How to Avoid Burnout - David Shar

Last Updated: 

October 17, 2022

Want to Close Bigger Deals?

My Guest today is David Shar the Founder of Illuminate PMC.

David is a keynote speaker, consultant, and trainer specialising in helping organizations improve their leadership and culture, combat burnout, and design meaningful work. David holds a Masters in Industrial / Organisational Psychology and is a current doctoral candidate in Business Psychology where he is studying the intersection between burnout and meaningful work. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and 5 children.

What we will be discussing today:

  • Employee burnout – what is it? What causes it? How can an organisation fix it?
  • The deeper meaning of work; work as a calling; finding passion& meaning in your work.
  • Employee selection – how to hire more effectively.
  • How to be a more effective leader.
  • Diversity & inclusion and why diversity is useless withoutinclusion.

Listen to the full episode:

Robin Waite · #55 - How to Avoid Burnout - David Shar

How to Avoid Burnout

Welcome to episode 55 of the Fearless Business podcast. In this edition, we discuss the mental health side of work, in particular burnout. Burnout is common in the workplace, and especially noticeable since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. If you employ people in your business, it’s not just you that you have to look out for either. You need to be an effective leader and support your employees. It’s time to explore all things burnout and how to make your work meaningful.

Employee burnout – what is it? What causes it?

Over the past year in particular, the world has seen some dramatic changes, and as an employee, the pandemic and everything else going on has shifted enthusiasm around work. People feel lost and helpless, which is at the core of burnout.

Podcast guest expert David Shar says that there are 3 key areas to burnout. emotional exhaustion, cynicism and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment, either real or imagined.

When you consider all that has happened over the past year, it’s understandable that we feel emotionally exhausted.

The pandemic has made people feel more cynical over their work and career, and made them reassess what truly matters to them in life, making them want to find a new path or way to do things. The sense of lack of personal accomplishment and wanting something different is real too. Our realities got turned upside down overnight and people are having to work twice as hard for the same result.

Emotional trauma

You may think of trauma as being something sudden like a car crash. Emotional trauma however can build up over time without you realising until one day it just hits you. With Covid, you may have tried to carry on as normal and ignore the early warning signs.

Warning signs of burnout

What are some early warning signs of burnout and how do you spot them?

Cynicism and withdrawal are key signs. People may start to pull back from work and become more distant. This feeling can spread to others in the workplace, and it also becomes noticeable to customers too. Part of the cynicism and distancing process is depersonalisation during human interaction. This may seem rude, but in fact, it can be a warning sign of burnout because you put barriers up to protect yourself.

Burnout can also manifest as physical symptoms, and you could see employees start to take more sick days, not just for mental health, but from the physical symptoms associated with stress and burnout.

When you start to notice these sorts of behaviours in your employees, this is when you need to take action, support, and re-energise your team.

Where does burnout come from? - Demand Control Support

When it comes to understanding where burnout comes from, there’s a popular model used called Demand Control Support. It occurs when there's an increase in demand, a decrease in a sense of control, and a decrease in a sense of support.

Demand is not necessarily the amount of work involved. If you have a busy restaurant for example, that could excite and fire up staff. Demand can actually be the obstacles that stand in the way of what you do. There’s definitely a connection between burnout and meaningful work. Jobs such as teaching and healthcare - people go into these sectors wanting to make a difference. However, you then get faced with the bureaucracy side of things and conflicting views, which add to the workload and make trying to do your actual job harder.

Losing control is when you lose the authority to make decisions. More support is starting to be put in place for workers to help create solutions. Yet still, there are so many obstacles to face and that is when helplessness starts to sink in. It feels like all your effort has come to nothing. Even freelancers and business owners, who have taken control of their own destiny, have found themselves losing clients in the pandemic, and now feel a loss of control in their lives.

Lack of support is particularly noticeable during the pandemic. The fact that you can’t even hug those closest to you has a huge impact.

All of the 3 areas combined are a recipe for burnout.

Finding a deeper meaning of work

Coaches, consultants, and freelancers have set up their own businesses, wanting to find their true passion and a deeper meaning of work. Your true calling. Even then, it can be hard, and you can doubt if it’s the right path for you.

The main step is to discover your purpose. As individuals, we have an individual mission. To know your mission, you have to look at your natural talents, abilities, and all of the events that happened in your life.It’s your abilities that you're born with, as well as all of the circumstances in your life. You have to figure it out for yourself,, but you have a very specific mission.

Regarding purpose in this sense, you want to be true to that individual mission while engaging with other people with complementary missions and having a greater impact on the world. Everyone comes together as specialists, or even if we are generalists, you specialise in certain things, you have certain personality traits and skills. Creating this diverse group of people magnifies your impact.

How to hire better

When it comes to employees and burnout, it’s time to reconsider how you hire. Often you are inundated with applications and begin by looking at the materialistic things. Who has the best degree, what jobs have they done previously, etc.? The approach should really be about who can make a meaningful difference. If you hire the wrong people, this is already setting up your business for burnout. You want to hire someone who fits your organisation, shares your values, and way of life.

Interviews are often unstructured and very surface level and don’t dig deeper to find this connection. Structured interviews, such as personality profiles and cognitive ability tasks can really show someone’s values and truly discover if they are a good fit.

Diversity, inclusion, and why diversity is useless without inclusion

Another issue with the hiring process is that people tend to hire people who are similar to them and have things in common with them. One day, you’ll suddenly realise that everyone is exactly like you in your business.

Diversity is so important. If you have hired people from all different walks of life with different backgrounds, each person is going to have a unique perspective on issues in the business. If you hire people that are all the same, it’s likely you will be receiving the same solutions. By diverse hiring, this will open up hundreds more solutions, perspectives, and add to the volume of creativity.

Diversity should never be surface level though. You should never hire someone just because they have a different skin tone or sexual orientation to you in order to tick a diversity box and then not include anyone.

Deep level diversity is about the different experiences, cultures, identity, and values. You want to include a variety of perspectives in your business. Inclusion is an integral part of diversity.

This fascinating episode with guest David Shar really has given a whole new perspective on burnout. Hopefully you can now spot the signs of burnout and recognise ways to improve support for yourself and employees alike.


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