If you’re feeling burned out, you’re in good — albeit exhausted — company: a recent survey of U.S. workers found that 34 percent are more burned out on the job today compared to a year ago. “2020 has been an extremely tough year for all of us,” says career consultant Vida Thomson.
Burnout can impact your physical and mental health. But it can have career consequences too: It can lead to everything from general job malaise to professional mistakes and even absenteeism.
That’s why, experts say, if you’re feeling burned out, it’s important to talk with your employer.
“Although it can be challenging to tell your boss you’re feeling this way, the risks to your health and career of not taking action are simply too high,” says Thomson. And as career coach Alyssa J. Mullett points out, if you share what you’re going through, your boss may be able to help. “It’s highly likely that not only will your boss have some tools or resources to share with you," says Mullett, “but your boss may even be brave enough to share their own stories of job burnout.”
Here’s how to have that important conversation.
Set up a one-on-one meeting.
Whether in person or virtual, it’s important to have this conversation in a private setting, advises Thomson. “If you already meet your boss individually — during a one-on-one weekly meeting, for example — you can broach the topic during this meeting,” she says. “If not, then ask your boss if he or she can schedule half an hour of their time for an individual meeting with you.”
Plan what you’d like to say.
Ahead of the meeting, think through what you’d like to communicate and what you want to get from the conversation. “You need to understand why you’re feeling burned out,” says Thomson. “Your boss is not going to be able to guess why you’re feeling burned out, and you should not put the burden on him or her to figure out why you’re feeling this way and what to do about it.”
If you’re not sure what’s getting you down, “spend some time reflecting on what’s going on in your life,” Thomson says. “There may be more than one cause of burnout. Once you’ve identified what the problems are, think about how to communicate these issues to your boss.”
Get specific with the problems and solutions.
Don’t just say you’re burned out, says Mullett. Be prepared to share what is overwhelming you. For example, you might say, “five Zoom meetings a day is too much,” Mullett says, or share an “aspect of a project that is really weighing on you.” Then, offer up solutions. “For example, if your workload recently increased, do you have any suggestions for how this could be managed better? Is there a way that processes could be streamlined to be less intensive?” asks Thomson.
By the time you leave the conversation, Mullet, and Thomson say, you should have some solutions in place that will help you reduce your burnout and do your job more effectively.