Mark Miller

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Lean management. Doing more with less. Maximizing workplace efficiency.

These are great objectives to develop for any organization, but what about the hidden costs necessary to achieve them? Creating more effective and efficient employees is too often paired with increased hours, stress, and responsibilities. None of this, on its face, is a bad thing, unless it leads to burnout. Losing a great employee swings the pendulum the other way for organizations—wasted time and money to replace your star employees.

Workplace burnout is a major issue that hits organizations at all levels. From finance to manufacturing, from salespeople to designers, the new workplace environment is demanding more and providing less.

But unfortunately, workplace burnout doesn’t just affect individuals–it affects the entire organization, leading to higher turnover, lower performance, less engagement, and, overall, more irritable employees. This study found that burnout caused by stress, emotional and mental exhaustion, and lack of individual recognition leads to significantly lower performance.

It’s impossible to get around the necessity of moving forward rapidly to gain market advantage and bring new ideas to market, which means that increasing responsibilities and deadlines are always present. Workers and managers must take steps to meet these deadlines. The key for leadership, however, is to provide a climate that engages employees and helps them feel comfortable.

This article from Inc. Magazine directly addresses workplace burnout. These tips are a great baseline to help employees make their own work experience and create a more stress-free environment. But, while helpful, these are just tactics. Sustainable change needs to hit at a deeper level, which can come from pinpointing employee work that aligns with unique, individual thinking and behavioral preferences.

Using employee thinking and behavior to fight workplace burnout is a natural solution. Allowing employees to work in ways that are in tune with their brains’ natural tendencies ultimately allows for the same or greater performance with less mental fatigue. In addition, relating an employee’s responsibilities to their cognitive preferences allows for easier engagement with work and greater personal identification to their role within the organization.

So how can managers and employers help reduce workplace stress through thinking and behavioral preferences? Try these tactics:

  • For those with a preference for Conceptual thought, brainstorming and unstructured planning comes quite naturally. So no matter what their role in the organization is, give Conceptual thinkers enough time before deadlines to think of creative solutions to the issues at hand – allow them the freedom to do their work. Engage them through sharing the organization’s long-term goals so they have an understanding of what they are working towards.
  • Allow those with a preference for Social thought a forum of communication so they can bounce their ideas for solving challenging workplace problems off others. Provide them the opportunity for collaboration and team building so they can become engaged through working with others. Limit burnout by connecting to their work and life outside of the office.
  • For individuals with a preference for Analytical thought, provide enough time on a project to sift through data and research and formulate their plan of action based on solid information. They want to know that information gathered yields measurable results. At the same time, when issuing them an assignment, provide them with the facts and data necessary to understand and engage in the task at hand.
  • For employees with a preference for Structural thought, the key to reducing burnout is to provide them with a concrete plan of action, and then stick to it. For these individuals, a plan is required in order to maximize efficiency. If they are to avoid unnecessary stress, create ways to increase their engagement to the plan and provide a road map to see ideas and concepts through to completion.

Behaviorally, similar concepts apply—connect in to the way people act, express, and respond to changes.

  • Those on the talkative side of the Expressiveness spectrum not only come up with ideas through discussion, but also feel most comfortable when speaking, so allow them to converse and bounce ideas off each other – this will yield natural behavior at work and lead to reduced mental fatigue.
  • On the quieter side of the Expressiveness spectrum, managers should allow time to meditate on a response and should also avoid putting these individuals on the spot during meetings. Not providing time to think before speaking is a major cause for mental stress for them.
  • Allow those on the driving side of the Assertiveness spectrum to debate ideas and argue out the details of the work—this isn’t stressful, it’s actually energizing. For them, a lively debate is fun, and it will put them in a better mood and ultimately lead to higher performance (as long as the debate stays professional).
  • On the peacekeeping end of the Assertiveness spectrum, individuals tend to avoid conflict and debate. Allow these people to still have a voice when discussions get more heated. More importantly, call on them to help find the middle ground during stalemated debates—this way they will feel their voice and opinions matter, see results and become more engaged in their work.
  • For those on the more spontaneous end of the Flexibility spectrum, let them change the plan if they feel they know a better way. Be open-minded and listen to their suggestions, as these employees actually welcome change. Burnout for adaptive people happens when rapid change is NOT happening, so let new directions happen in order to improve employee engagement and performance.
  • Those on the more focused end of the Flexibility spectrum need to be given reasoning behind any changes. Stress and employee burnout can be rooted in last-minute changes, so creating an ordered, systematic, and focused environment will help avoid mental stress and fatigue.

Your best employees need a work environment where they can thrive and be productive. Organizations need their best employees for the long term. Creating distinct thinking- and behavior-based workplaces can make both happen.