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"How do I tell my boss I’m burned out?"
The expert: Massoma Alam Chohan is an industrial and organizational psychologist, TEDx speaker and the author of Take Your Lunch Break: Helpful Tips for Relieving Work-Related Stress. Here's her advice.
It is so important to talk to your boss if you are burning out. Your health should always come first! It is worth having that difficult and uncomfortable conversation for a better life. According to a study by Deloitte, 77% of respondents say they experienced burnout at their current job*. Contributing factors may include working remotely, longer hours, balancing family demands, etc.
Your boss may not be aware of just how overwhelmed you feel with everything on your plate and may be willing to offload or reallocate some tasks. Alternatively, your boss may suspect something is going on with you, so it’s good to bring it to the forefront and discuss it. Your boss may be able to help you with time management strategies or other skills needed to tackle your workload. Here are four ways you can go about talking to your boss:
1. Right Timing
Catch your boss at a good time, it might help to schedule a check-in with your boss so that you have their full attention. Try scheduling it when your boss is usually in a good mood. According to the book, The Power of When by Sleep Doctor Michael Breus, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. is when bosses are more agreeable and open to suggestions. You also want to be calm when you go into the meeting—not frazzled.
2. Be Honest and Specific
Don’t forget that your boss is human too, although it may feel like they are another species altogether. Remember to connect with your boss on a human-to-human level. Vulnerability builds connection, so being open and honest can be beneficial for your bond. More than likely they can relate to your struggles since managers and bosses are those that are more likely to experience burnout. You can even say things like, “This isn't easy for me to talk about but I know it’s important” to acknowledge the difficulty of the conversation. Your boss may feel more empathetic and it can set the stage for a productive meeting. Avoid being vague and saying things like, “I’m just super stressed,” rather be specific in what you’ve been experiencing by saying things like, “I’ve felt overwhelmed by the recent XYZ projects because of XYZ.” This way your boss knows the problems and can help draft solutions with you.
3. Come Prepared
Come prepared to the meeting with solutions and even possibly create a burnout recovery plan with your boss. You can say to your boss, “I’m asking for help and I want to be a part of the solution.” First, figure out exactly what is causing your burnout that your boss can help you with. They may not be able to fix your personal problems, but maybe they can adjust your hours so you can meet the demands of your family life. Figure out what you need to feel less burned out, whether that's time off, more personal days, more support on projects, lesser workload, additional resources or more time for higher-level projects. Be concise and clear.
4. Take Responsibility
Avoid blaming your boss for your burnout and take responsibility for your recovery. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of: “you did this and you did that,” say: “I feel this and I feel that.” Also, it might help to take ownership of any shortcomings by saying something like, “I apologize for missing the deadline for the last project, I know it may have affected the team.”
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to take care of your well-being which can look like eating healthy, working out, seeing a therapist, building meaningful connections at work and home, doing more of what brings you joy, doing activities that rejuvenate you and nourish your creative side. Talk to your boss to help you prioritize in order of urgency your pending projects and what projects can wait for a later time. Close all work streams when inactive. Block out time in your calendar to do work with fewer meetings, if possible. If you create a plan with your boss, be sure to honor that and follow up with it. Whether its drawing boundaries or taking regular breaks during the day—do it. Even if you start to feel better, keep up with these healthy habits.
Now go and talk to your boss. You got this, good luck!