You think I’m about to slam your CEO, don’t you?
I’m not. My definition of caring about something includes both the emotional act of caring and the physical action of doing something about it. I do believe most CEOs care emotionally about burnout, but not enough are actually doing something about it. But let’s be clear, your CEO has the power to do almost anything she/he wants, especially when times are good, so they bear the responsibility for a burnout crisis.
This year I spoke at or attended a total of 12 conferences. At all of the ones I spoke at I typically asked 2 questions:
- How many of you have experienced serious burnout from work?
- How many of you have been through a merger or acquisition event in the last 5 years?
At every one of the conferences, at least three-fourths of the audience, ranging from 50 – 400 in size, raised their hands both times. Seeing all the hands go up quickly was both impressive and sad. However not surprising.
So how can you tell if your CEO isn’t focused on your team’s burnout?
- They embrace technology, even provide resources toward it, but place no value-based standards around over usage. If your CEO sends you emails to reply to at 11 pm, he/she doesn’t care about your burnout. Until more companies actually set standards that all employees need to log off at 6 pm or that email access is turned off during vacations, burnout will continue.
- They are involved in a merger/acquisition event. Our nation is in a merger and acquisition (high growth) era so to speak. There has been a 1626% increase in M/A activity between 2009 and 2018, and a 39% increase between 2013 and 2018. If your company is going through an M/A event, especially in the small to medium-sized business market, I can assure you your CEO is immersed in this process. Therefore, he/she may not have their head in the game in regards to your day-to-day operations (aka your burnout).
- They are burned out themselves. It takes a special, talented person to be a CEO. It is a job, that I for one, could not handle. Imagine the pressure you experience now and multiply it by 5 or 10 times. Now, they get handsomely rewarded for that pressure, but it is still pervasive chronic pressure. If you see your CEO making irrational decisions, going MIA, buckling when you ask if they need help (tactically or emotionally), or just acting angry, they may be going through burnout themselves.
What this means for you: take control of your own health. Don’t wait for your CEO or organization to simply “come around” to fix what may be a crisis in your organization. Set boundaries, get sleep, take your PTO, and protect your teams. Have your HR team do some probing of their own to get the pulse of the organization regarding employee burnout levels. If the data shows organizational burnout levels are high, as the HR leader, take on this issue yourself.
Your CEO may just thank you later.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.