How to tackle manager burnout with a talent marketplace

Why keeping managers motivated is crucial for your business’s success

By Maya Finkelstein

Burnout has quickly snowballed into a problem that leaders can’t ignore. While the term may have been relatively unknown a few years ago, it’s now firmly part of the workplace lexicon. The World Health Organization has even classified it as an “occupational phenomenon”, further cementing burnout’s status as a workplace epidemic.

Most leaders know the basic warning signs of burning out, and some may have even experienced it firsthand. However, there’s one particularly challenging type of burnout that tends to get overlooked: manager burnout. Mid-level employees frequently find themselves in a taxing balancing act, as they must juggle the expectations of their direct reports with their own supervisor’s demands. As a result, Gallup reveals that managers report more stress and burnout than the people they manage. They’re also the group of employees who are most likely to resign during today’s turnover tsunami.

No business can afford to lose talent during the Great Resignation, and manager turnover can take an especially devastating toll on everything from employee productivity to workplace morale. Leaders will need to address management burnout if they want to hold on to these invaluable employees, but many are unsure about how to reduce workplace stress levels. So what does it take to cultivate an environment that will set your managers up for success?

Why are managers burnt out?

The facts on manager burnout are pretty alarming. While workplace stress decreased for individual contributors and leaders last year, managers felt their anxiety skyrocket. And only one in four said they’ve been able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Part of what makes middle managers so susceptible to burnout is that they’re often experiencing pressure from both sides. They’re in charge of bringing stakeholders’ visions to life, while simultaneously making sure their direct reports are supported and engaged. This dual set of expectations can be overwhelming, leaving many managers to feel like they’re struggling to shoulder too much weight at once.

Organizational silos adds another layer to managers’ stress levels. At many organizations, a lack of connectivity weighs down cross-functional collaboration, making it difficult for managers to ask for support or get the expertise they need. Instead, middle-level managers might feel responsible for coming up with all the right answers, even when a question or task is outside of their area of expertise.

Finally, a third factor in the management burnout crisis is that many employees don’t get much support as they move into these roles. The transition from contributor to manager is a major milestone that comes with plenty of new challenges and responsibilities that previous roles rarely prepare people for. That means these newly promoted workers must search for ways to bridge gaps and get the soft skills they need as a leader while managing the dual set of responsibilities that comes with the job.

The dangerous consequences of manager burnout

Everyone knows that burnout is bad. But just how bad is it? According to the American Institute of Stress, the burnout costs in the United States alone amount to $300 million annually in diminished productivity and employee turnover.

The devastating toll that management burnout takes can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Personal performance takes a hit
    No employee can reach their full potential when they’re under constant stress, and managers aren’t an exception. When managers are burnt out, they won’t be able to complete high-priority tasks, make strategic decisions, or offer their direct reports the level of support and guidance that they need.
  • Team productivity dwindles
    When it comes to productivity, management burnout packs a dangerous double punch. Not only will your managers themselves struggle to maintain output levels and meet deadlines, but there will also be a trickle-down effect, making it harder for their direct reports to stay on top of their daily tasks. As a result, management burnout can slowly but surely sabotage an entire team or department’s level of efficiency.
  • Morale and culture suffer
    When managers are burnt out, employees will take note. It’s nearly impossible for workers to remain motivated with a boss who is disengaged. They’re likely to either follow suit or strive to pick up the slack, which will make them vulnerable to a similar sense of burnout. Either way, your workplace culture will inevitably suffer when your managers are grappling with burnout.

Make manager burnout a thing of the past

No leader wants their organization to become a breeding ground for burnout. Fortunately, there are a few steps that executive teams can take to safeguard their workforces against chronic stress. These best practices include:

  • Create a culture of talent-sharing
    Finding a way out of today’s burnout problem requires a profound mindset change. Managers need to shift from viewing their direct report’s skills as “theirs” and begin thinking of the talent within their organization as a shared resource that everyone can tap into. Talent sharing means that managers no longer need to stress about their team’s capacity because they’ll be able to find the talent they need within their organization, even if these employees are outside of the team that they directly manage.
  • Start flattening hierarchies
    Traditional, hierarchical structures create a lot of stress because they condition everyone to look up and down the chain for answers and expertise. It becomes difficult for managers to evaluate, let alone access, knowledge outside of their particular silos and they often find themselves stuck in the middle of their own boss’s demands and their direct reports’ expectations. When organizations embrace a flatter structure that empowers employees of all levels to take ownership and share their ideas, it takes a tremendous weight off of middle managers’ shoulders.
  • Give them the tools to break down silos
    Outside perspectives are powerful. What your managers need is a way to be able to create those aha moments, rather than just waiting for them to happen. Talent marketplaces put that power in your managers’ hands by enabling them to post projects and send networking and mentoring requests. The AI will then discover people with the skills, interests, and experience they need, near instantaneously. Talent marketplaces make talent-sharing part of your organization’s DNA, in turn breaking down the barriers that typically prevent managers from asking for help when they need it.

Burnout isn’t going to go away unless leaders take action. Currently, our research reveals that 43.3% of employees feel burnt out, and that number is likely to be even higher amongst mid-level managers. To learn more about the powerful role that talent marketplaces can play in reducing workplace stress and engaging and retaining employees of all levels, check out The Great Resignation Research Report.

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