Do you have employees whose performance has fallen short of company standards? If so, they might be suffering from burnout.

When workers feel overworked and underappreciated--especially for long periods--their morale and performance can suffer. And burned-out employees cost you time and money and hinder your company's growth.

Successful companies have learned how to prevent and cure this problem. Here are five suggestions:

1. Foster a team environment

Many people begin to burn out when they feel their work has little meaning, value or purpose. To prevent them from losing sight of your company's goals, talk regularly with your employees. Help them see that they're part of a team working toward a common goal--meaning you must be sure to explain your goals often--and emphasize that their role is as important as everyone else's.

You can accomplish this in group settings. For example, my firm holds occasional retreats for our various teams. We go off site to a comfortable, relaxed setting, where we help everyone refocus on our mission while showing appreciation for each person's important contributions. We also hold frequent "all hands" meetings and videotape them so those who can't attend can view them later.

2. Set reasonable expectations

Sure, you need to challenge employees so that they grow in their jobs, perform at a higher level and eventually get promoted. But are your standards reasonable and attainable? If your expectations are too high, you might get the opposite of what you intended. Setting goals that employees feel they can't attain can hurt self-esteem, create extra stress and make workers feel their best will never be good enough. Some may stop trying at all--creating burnout. To avoid this, make sure the performance standards you set are within everyone's reach.

3. Communicate in clear terms

During a recent meeting with one of my firm's teams, I began by saying that I wasn't 100% satisfied with how things had been going--but instead of placing blame on team members, I put it on myself. I said I didn't feel that I'd communicated clearly enough or often enough with them, and that despite this they'd achieved remarkable accomplishments. I then clearly explained what we need to do going forward. Employees left the room invigorated and recharged.

One of the biggest culprits behind burnout is miscommunication--you might be operating under one impression while employees operate under another. Meetings like the one we held, where clear and concise directions on how to succeed are laid out, help ensure everyone is in sync. That goes a long way toward preventing and curing burnout.

4. Recognize good performance

One of the surest ways to build morale is to give public credit to those who deserve it. Otherwise employees will feel their achievements aren't noticed and their work is undervalued. They might stop giving their best or even quit. Both are manifestations of burnout. Recognition and rewards build motivation. That's why we hold an annual meeting to honor our top employees and recognize everyone for their years of service. Every six years, for example, employees get a paid four-week sabbatical (during which the person's email and cell phone are turned off) and after 10 years they each get a Rolex. If you're not formally recognizing your employees' accomplishments, you should start doing so.

5. Provide relaxing downtime

Your business likely operates in a fast-paced environment. Employees need a little time to relax and rejuvenate now and then. In addition to an annual holiday party, we stage smaller events throughout the year, from "Glop Day" when we serve ice cream with lots of toppings to Stress Down Day. And we look for excuses (like completion of big projects or celebrating an award) to cater breakfast and lunch for the entire firm. I'm sure you can think of ways to provide occasional relaxation and downtime for your employees--and if you can't, your employees can. Just ask them. Morale will rise simply because you asked.

These five steps have helped us resolve burnout. They can work just as well for you.

Published on: Feb 3, 2016
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