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Managers can be critical for addressing burnout, survey shows

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Managers serve as a crucial centerpiece in employee burnout, whether negatively by overestimating employee well-being or positively by helping their workers to thrive, according to an April 16 report by The Grossman Group and The Harris Poll.

For instance, 76% of employees and 63% of managers reported feeling burned out or ambivalent about their current position. However, 89% of managers said their employees were thriving, as compared to the reality at 24%.

“These findings are a wake-up call. Clearly, employees are not okay and yet that’s often not recognized by senior leadership or the front-line leaders whose job it is to support and engage their teams,” David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, said in a statement.

In a survey of 2,086 employees in January 2024, 58% of employees and managers who were burned out said they felt mentally exhausted, and 54% agreed that they felt overwhelmed in their current role.

The top drivers of burnout among employees included constant change, unnecessary work and turnover. The top drivers among managers included constant change, their employees having to shift focus throughout the day and a disconnect between company values and workplace culture.

At the same time, managers can help employees move from burnout to thriving, according to the report. Among employees who said they were thriving, the top factors were a manager who invested in their success (61%), an empathetic manager (57%) and approachable senior leadership (53%).

In addition, thriving managers said they appreciated leadership being clearly invested in their success. Beyond that, they listed other top factors such as leaders who effectively translate business strategy into work responsibilities, as well as clear and authentic communication.

Still, many managers appeared to have a positive mindset about their work, even if they reported feeling burned out.

“The responses of employees and managers demonstrate that leaders at all levels have a role to play in creating a stronger culture of thriving,” Grossman said. “Starting from the top and moving down through the ranks of managers, a focus on well-being should be purposeful and intentional, not left to chance.”

In fact, managers may affect employees’ mental health more than doctors or therapists and about the same as a spouse or partner, according to a UKG Workplace Institute poll. Ineffective managers tended to micromanage, listen poorly and take an impersonal approach, while effective leaders checked in with their employees’ emotional states, provided help when needed and offered constructive feedback.

Unfortunately, many managers may not be as effective at relating to their direct reports as they think, especially when it comes to worker well-being, according to a survey from Checkr.com. Most employees said their managers did a poor job of addressing mental health, while managers — highlighting that disconnect — said they performed well at supporting mental health and building relationships.

Avoidance, micromanagement and other major issues make up the 10 types of bad bosses, according to a leadership book by HR consultants Ken and Debra Corey. Once managers realize their shortcomings, they can turn to 14 building blocks — such as empathy, listening and development — to better work with their employees.

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