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Friday with Friends - "The Myth of Employee Burnout" by Matt Heller

Friday with Friends - Matt Heller, author.

I have known Matt for many years and have had the opportunity to see the results of his work as a facilitator, speaker, consultant and author!


His book "The Myth of Employee Burnout" is a great read for any organizational leader.  Burnout, causes many issues, the least of which is poor engagement.

Without further ado: Matt and his thoughts on "The Myth of Employee Burnout."


People have asked me how long it took for me to write “The Myth of Employee Burnout?" My answer? 25 years!

In many ways, it’s a culmination of the lessons I learned both as an employee and a leader.  The book outlines my quest to find the "truth" behind why people “burnout" - or - lose motivation.  I have seen so many people start off strong, enthused, eager, and engaged - but then somewhere along the line  -fizz out.  They turned into the "lackadaisical employees" many leaders complain about.

Being in the amusement park industry I attributed it to the long hours, the heat of working outdoors, and the constant barrage of craziness from the guests. Surely that would "burnout" anyone. But it wasn’t until I stepped away from operational management that I realized my "assumptions" were incorrect.

And this is why I call this the "MYTH" of employee burnout.  A myth is a false, popular belief. Not only did I think that people were burning out because of the hours, the heat, and the guests, but a majority of my colleagues did as well.

We all couldn’t be wrong, right?

Turns out, we were. We completely overlooked our own influence as leaders. We totally discounted the fact that we had a HUGE role in the engagement levels (i.e. burnout) of our staff. The bad news is that we were the cause. But that also meant we were the solution.

As I work with leaders around this concept, it’s fun to watch the “aha” moments as we talk about the true cause of burnout.  Often they are frustrated with the fact that nothing they have tried has really worked, but, they often haven’t tried changing their own behavior.  It’s incredibly empowering when someone realizes that the issues they have been dealing with have not been caused by some sort of outside factor, and, they hold the key to the solution.

Often, burnout is caused when people lose sight of "why" they do what they do.  They lose their purpose. 

As human beings, we can overcome incredible physical odds if we believe in what we are doing. That’s where leadership comes in; through communication, coaching, encouragement and guidance, we can help people remain focused on the “why," instead of just the “what!"

To truly overcome burnout, we must couple appropriate leadership with an understanding of the process of the ‘employee lifecycle’. This is the concept that every process or experience an employee goes through should be connected.  For example, hiring, training, recognition, discipline, termination… all should be considered as different points on the same continuum, not as separate and individual processes.


The way we generally connect these processes is through a set of values or guiding principles that most companies have. So if your company values include, for example, great guest service, then you infuse that concept into each one of those processes.
  • When you hire, you hire for fit regarding great guest service.
  • When you train, you train people on your standards of great guest service.
  • When employees provide great guest service, you recognize them.
  • When an employee falls below your guest service standard, you discipline or coach them.
  • If an employee shows a lack of capacity or desire to meet your guest service standards on a consistent basis, you can terminate them.
By doing these things you are communicating the same standards throughout the entire process. If someone can be hired because they have the potential to be a great guest service provider, then they should be able to be terminated if they can’t continually meet the standard.

Looking at the ‘lifecycle’ this way creates more consistent messages to employees, which keeps the values of the company front-of-mind. This helps communicate their “why” on a more regular basis so they don’t lose purpose or motivation.

In other words, so they don’t burnout.

To learn more about Matt and what he has to offer visit http://www.performanceoptimist.com.

Follow Matt Heller on Twitter: @PrfrmnceOptmst

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