Monday, 13. October 2014

Not an issue for managers ?

Burnout as a taboo on today’s management level

Burnout – an issue that seems to be openly discussed everywhere now. From seminars and guest lectures to flyers handed out in company’s cantines, works councils are trying everything to support their employees to pursue a healthy work-life-balance. Managers – functioning as supervisors of their staff – are supposed to early detect signals and symptoms of exhaustion and shall try to lighten their employees‘ workload. While doing so they seldom come into question to be a potential risk group themselves. In his guest article in february’s Wirtschaftswoche, the consultant, coach and holder of a degree in business administration Thomas Kleina gives cause for thought on the topic of burnout prevention on the executive’s level.

Exhaustion and Overburdening in professional life is an issue that  has now been repeatedly adressed by works councils, HR counsulting agencies and in leadership seminars for quite some time. Malicious tongues even claim that the diagnosis burnout has become a trend term in today’s time of management consultants and investment bankers. By offering seminars and training teaching stress management, companys like K+S and Volkswagen try to proactively counteract the increasing pressure on employeees. Usually these measures focus on teaching  executives to carefully lead their staff by supporting their health and productivity in the long run. Manager, directors and entrepreneurs ought to assist their employees in dealing with stress, and have the responsibility to undertake retaliatory action as early as employees show first signs of burnout. However, according to Thomas Kleina the reliability of managers‘ perception, sensitivity and diagnostic capability has to be questionned in case the above-mentionned themselves suffer from exhaustion. Their own workload and stress level would rarely be brought to discussion in such coachings, says Kleina. Even if employees did detect their superior’s mental suffering, there would be no appropriate way if and how the issue should be addressed. With respect to this difficulty, Kleina proposes the engagement of external supervisory board to independently assess and evaluate the workload of the managing personnel.

As a first step, Kleina notes, it would be important to tackle the taboos and to create awareness for the issue of Burnout at management level. In his opinion, Managers should be able to accept their personal limits without judging them or feeling weak. At this point, corporate culture is of the utmost importance, says Kleina. A certain tolerance towards mistakes and weaknesses would ease both managers‘ and employees‘ pressure and makes room for humanity.