5 Helpful Tips for Dealing with Burned Out Bosses
Your boss is MIA. Even when he comes into the office, he’s missing mentally, as if he’s on vacation. Permanently. When you first signed on, he was considered the golden child of the firm, but that was in the distant past. Now, you’re afraid his fall from grandeur will take you down with him.
You can’t get his undivided attention when you need to talk to him, and when you send an email, his responses, if and when they come, don’t address the question. You don’t understand why he isn’t more enthusiastic about your work product. You are!
Meanwhile, others on the team are using the boss’s inattention as an excuse for a hiatus from deadlines and self-discipline. They take a cavalier approach to dress codes, keeping regular office hours and holding up their end of the workload. With the boss so completely checked out, they’ve adopted the attitude: Why should we care?
Before you attribute your boss’s lack of interest to something dire like divorce or an incurable case or some ghastly disease, consider: Is it possible he’s suffering from burnout? And if so, how can you get him to regain his spark?
Burnout is all too common in today’s workforce. It’s become so prevalent that the World Health Organization recently made it a medical diagnosis. Recent figures show 28 percent of workers suffer from it — and the numbers go up in high-stress careers. Burnout manifests as physical and mental exhaustion. It tends to result from periods of prolonged stress or extended working hours without any opportunity to recharge away from job responsibilities.
When the symptoms show up in your boss, you’ll inevitably experience the backlash. He may become cynical, critical, irritable or disillusioned.
But in order not to allow the boss’s burnout and your team’s apathy to tarnish your hard-earned reputation, you’ll need to take up the slack.
Tips for Dealing With a Burned Out Boss
Use these five helpful tips to step up your effort — while protecting yourself from burnout:
1. Take any load you can off of your boss. If she’s of no use during her time at the office, it’s apparent your boss needs a complete break from work. Show her that you can manage what needs to get done so that she won’t have to fret. Then, try to persuade her to take some time off. A two-week vacation to stay unplugged and undisturbed can turn out to be rejuvenating and help restore her drive.
2. Do what’s necessary without worrying about the recognition. You’re going to have to give your all — and then some. But remember: When you shine, your boss does as well. Your fantastic work product is going to reflect well… on both of you. Rather than resenting the credit your boss will no doubt glean from your fine efforts, look at your hard work as the key to shaking him out of his burnout. Your efforts will be rewarded. Higher-ups will compliment you and your boss, and the recognition may jolt him out of his doldrums.
3. Devise strategies to minimize stress. Don’t worry about sharing the details when your boss is clearly unable to focus. Craft one email each day that categorizes information into “actions needed” and “updates.” Do your best to remove any extraneous particulars, condensing questions, and providing one-sentence summaries. Request access to her calendar and take the meetings where you can cover for her, while rescheduling those for which her presence is necessary.
4. Explore new role model possibilities. A burned out boss is unlikely to be a good mentor for you, so look for advice and guidance elsewhere. Is there another person in the department who would make a good mentor? Along with career advice, ask for guidance in dealing with your burned out boss and lackadaisical coworkers.
5. Avoid working yourself into a run-down state of your own. Accepting more responsibility in the short term can get your department over the hump while your boss is MIA, but be careful not to take on too much for too long. Watch for your own signs of burnout, including becoming short-tempered, feeling apathetic about your work or getting sick frequently. Prioritize your own physical and emotional needs, and find someone supportive outside the office who can be your sounding board. Take a cue from the pre-flight safety briefings when you’re on an airplane and “adjust your own oxygen mask first before helping others.”