10 Signs of Burnout: How to Prevent the Great Resignation in Your Organization

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US has been experiencing labor shortages across nearly all industries and roles. Businesses all over the nation are competing for top talent and hoping to increase their existing employee retention

One technique to increase loyalty is to be aware of the signs of burnout amongst your staff. 

Employee burnout happens when work stress reaches a level when it becomes a chronic mental health issue. It is common for business owners to treat these problems as personal, one-off issues rather than a broader organizational challenge. This mentality is a tremendous mistake.

The actual cost of burnout can be even worse for a business due to low productivity, high absenteeism, and losing its best talent. A great place to start is leaders acknowledging their role in creating workplace stress in the first place. Once executives confront the problems that lead to burnout, like heavy workloads, unnecessary short deadlines, and frustrating work routines, they can tackle the issues at an organizational level and use administrative measures to improve them.

However, before management can improve the causes of work-related stress, they need to recognize when burnout is upon them. This article details ten signs of burnout to look out for and quickly address in your business.

1. Increased Cynicism

Cynicism is destructive for the workplace and is usually a sign that employees feel hopeless and powerless. When management turns against the cynical members by labeling them as negative, they do not understand that cynicism is usually a symptom of a much larger problem.

A great defense to workplace cynicism is to establish a culture of trust. Digging into the series of issues, creating a plan, being transparent and predictable, listening to grievances, and becoming transparent are great methods for reducing cynicism and creating a positive work environment. 

2. Employee Isolation

Burnout and depression can have similar symptoms. An example would be an employee withdrawing or isolating from the rest of the team. Canceling meetings, skipping out on favorite activities, or withdrawing from previously established work relationships are all common signs of employee burnout.

If you notice one of your employees is no longer engaging with other team members, address it immediately, possibly schedule recurring 1:1 meetings to check in with your staff so you can highlight potential issues. Isolation is usually a problem that requires intervention before it subsides. 

3. Lack of Energy

If employees frequently work long hours, this would presumably increase their stress and fatigue. The more time someone spends at work, the less time they can provide self-care or engage in coping skills to restore their outlook and physical well-being. 

Signs of lack of energy are if the employee is always tired, yawning during meetings, reduced alertness, and forgetfulness are all things to keep an eye out for among your staff.

As a business owner, if you begin to see a lack of energy in one or more of your employees, it is essential to ask them how you can help. Lessening their workload, emphasizing work-life balance and good sleep routines are great places to start. 

4. Exhaustion

Employee exhaustion usually happens when fatigue and other symptoms go unaddressed. Are your team members talking about how they feel drained first thing in the morning? Those who experience emotional, mental, or physical exhaustion often have trouble dragging themselves to work every day, and they can even have trouble starting or finishing a task.

There are often cultural pressures to work through the discomfort or suffer in silence, which is why organization-level interventions are required.

5. Lack of Confidence

When workers experience burnout, their symptoms can differ quite a bit. In addition to physical symptoms, there are also emotional symptoms to observe. One of these is a lack of confidence in their abilities at work or if a colleague is suddenly sensitive to feedback. These signs happen when an employee feels disconnected from their work and are usually in a high-stress environment.

Since our society has limited knowledge about occupational burnout, employees often ignore their symptoms and keep pushing through, despite the emotional turmoil they are going through. Low-self confidence can seep into both their work and personal lives because they no longer feel connected to their responsibilities.

The heightened stress levels make these individuals more susceptible to hypertension and diabetes, or from an emotional level, they suffer from long-term social and personal losses. This type of burnout tends to be more severe and leaves more long-term scars.

6. Perception of Unfairness

Co-workers that have bitterness or a perception of unfairness can be showing burnout signals. Whether an individual feels overlooked when their colleague gets promoted, doesn’t feel management is communicating properly, or begins complaining their salary is insufficient, these can all be signs of burnout.

A direct approach can remedy this problem. If you hear an employee complain about lack of communication or money, pull them aside and have a conversation; ask for specific examples so that the employee feels heard and understood. 

7.  Decreased Productivity

Individuals with burnout feel negative about carrying out tasks. They have difficulty concentrating which diminishes their productivity enormously. Sometimes individuals will lack effort altogether and attempt to get by on just the bare minimum.

By not recognizing lack of productivity along with other burnout signs, this symptom tends to only get worse. This attitude is costly for the employer and doesn’t fulfill the employee’s expectations. It is best to notice this and other signs early on so you can quickly turn them around.

8. Lack of Control

Workers that lack autonomy and control of their professional lives can negatively affect their well-being. For example, if they cannot control their schedule, interactions with senior staff that affect their time-management, they are at risk of employee burnout.

Experts agree that the ultimate battle of burnout falls on the shoulders of both the employee and the employers. Therefore companies need to acknowledge their role and figure out why their workers can’t keep control of their schedules and ultimately their autonomy.

Upper management may not understand on a deeper level the degree of stress and suffering they are causing their employees. Communication is paramount. Either employees need to step up and illustrate how current actions affect their state of being, or management needs to notice and implement boundaries. 

9. Frequent Mistakes

When employees feel a lack of job security, their stress levels increase. Unfortunately, increased stress often leads to making more mistakes, which can be small and fleeting or detrimental to the organization as a whole.

If you have a reliable employee that begins making several mistakes in a row, something is weighing heavily on their mind to create such a contrast. Heightening pressure on already worried individuals to stop making mistakes only perpetuates stress cycles. 

10. Overloading High Performers

Employee workloads have increased in many organizations where hiring has not matched growth. In addition, companies overestimate how much can be accomplished with digital platforms and software and do not check to see if their assumptions are correct.

The overload problem is worse for the high-performing employees because their knowledge base is in high demand. They become the biggest victims of burnout, and without organizational changes, businesses may have trouble keeping their best performers. 


People tend to feel excited about what they’re doing when they can creatively decide what needs to be done and come up with ways of handling problems that arise. Generally speaking, workers who feel restricted and unable to exercise personal control over their environment and daily decisions tend to be at greater risk for burnout. 

Watching out for signs of burnout and addressing it right away can help employees feel more supported and less stressed out by achieving a healthier balance between the demands of their jobs and their mental and physical well-being.

Remember, employee burnout is not a sudden workplace event. Stress and negative well-being are a gateway to burnout and are built up over time. Business owners can identify the cause of stress and address it before burnout manifests are vital to both employees and employers.


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