Job burnout getting you down? If so, you’re in good company, because surveys suggest that nearly 90 percent of the U.S. working population feels job-related stress or burnout at some point in their working careers.
It’s true that it’s a common affliction, and corporate aviation, with its unique set of challenges and stresses, can be a particularly likely industry to help generate burnout.
Of course, job burnout affects some more than others—everyone has his or her own “threshold of misery.”
It’s a significant enough problem, though, that it might help to examine some of the causes and symptoms of burnout, and what we can do to help recover from it.
First of all, let’s take a look at some of the root causes of job burnout. As we can see, although being overworked is often the culprit, it’s not the only reason workers become weary and overstressed on the job.
- Not feeling in synch with the management of your company or its vision.
- Being overworked and asked to do more with less.
- Feeling that you’ll never reach the end of your to-do list.
- Having the sense that you’re always putting out fires and never getting to work on more constructive, strategic projects.
- Being under-recognized for your hard work.
- Personal issues at home (e.g., divorce, family death, moving, kids, etc.)
Keeping these in mind, let’s next examine how job burnout manifests itself.
What are some of the signs and symptoms, and, specifically, how can you tell you’re in danger of burning out on the job?
Here are a few telltale signs:
- You frequently find yourself waiting in vain for someone to tell you what a great job you’re doing or to recognize your contribution to the company’s work.
- The raise you’ve been expecting for a while isn’t materializing.
- You look to co-workers to make you feel good about your work and that of the company.
- The work you do doesn’t give you the satisfaction it once did.
- The people and customers (travelers) you serve—and the very tasks you are asked to perform—are beginning to get on your nerves.
- You find yourself having to drag yourself to work every day.
- Somebody else at work—your boss perhaps—is setting unrealistic goals for you.
- You find yourself not really caring about the work anymore, and you just do it for the paycheck.
How to “Cool Off” the Burnout
So what can you do if you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of burnout?
The number one order of business is to recognize the problem for what it is.
Talk to people in your inner circle. Get objective advice. Having other people involved that are objective can help you identify what your main burnout-related problem might be.
2. Choose your attitude.
Look at yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself “What is my part in all of this? How am I contributing to my own stress? Can I work through it and, if so, how am I going to accomplish that?” Will tomorrow bring a brand-new day and attitude, or will it be the continuation of “same-old, same-old”?
3. Look at the big picture.
When it regards your management or others under your management, your mindset is even more of a factor. Ask yourself, “What could I do differently? How could I be a more empathetic leader? Don’t forget that an employee or co-worker might be coping with something difficult outside of work or on the job, so try and put yourself into his or her situation to better understand it.
On that note, recognizing people’s differences and unique needs can really affect a change in your mindset—and thus your level of stress or potential burnout. There’s always an emotional part of working with people (after all, you probably spend more time with them than you do your own family). So try and understand the whole situation (but without being too emotional). Look at the team through an objective lens and try to see what they bring to the table. Give them clear direction and, in the process, you’re bound to feel better about yourself.
4. Prioritize a healthier lifestyle.
One thing that might help universally is to try and change the way you’re dealing with stress. To help reduce stress and gain more energy, get plenty of exercise, sleep and eat better foods.
Other things you can do to circumvent burnout:
5. Analyze the risk vs. reward.
You can make a two-part list of “pros vs. cons,” related to your workplace stress. Create your list by asking yourself questions like the following: “Will I miss my peer relationships and those with my clients, suppliers and industry friends?” Add to that: “Will I be able to make a similar income or even more money elsewhere? Will I need to relocate?” and, importantly, “If I change jobs, is my family on-board with that decision?”
6. Articulate your personal and professional goals.
Everyone has his or her own goals. But you have to weigh your particular goals against what can you deal with in the workplace and what you can’t. You have to ask yourself, “What makes me happy?” If your kids are in middle school and you need them to stay there for a period of time, then that’s a personal goal for your family, even it if means risking a bit of burnout. If your career goal is to be a Chief Pilot or become a CAM, then discuss it with your employer and see where it goes.
7. Act like a grown-up.
Letting the things that bug us really get under our skin is within our control. Sometimes we need to put those things on the shelf and just do our jobs. It’s a question of weights and balances: there are times that you simply have to swallow and bear up under the things that are burning you out; that’s why they call “work” work!
8. But when you’re ready to leave . . .
when you know without question that you cannot manage the stress and burnout no matter what you do or how you look at it, then it’s probably time to make a move. If you’ve reached this point after weighing all the other considerations we’ve discussed you can at least leave with the knowledge that you gave it your best shot.
9. Change your environment.
In the final analysis, there are many ways to help change the burned out situation you might find yourself in.
Here are just a few:
- Ask for open, honest, weekly communication with your supervisor.
- If you’re lacking one, put an individual performance plan (IDP) in place and open up two-way feedback with your leadership.
- Ask to be heard. Add your voice to the issues that you think are important. But be sure to come up with a solution … don’t just complain about problems.
- If it is change you’re looking for, put together a strategic plan that benefits you AND the organization where you work.
Don’t forget, though, that if leaving is where you’re headed, preparing for a new job brings up a whole different set of questions and considerations. To serve as a reminder, you might want to check out 12 ways to prepare for your next job.
One thing to remember is that it’s always better to look for a new job while you still have the old one!
A previous API blog that deals with what to do to improve your career while you’re still employed is probably worth re-reading.
If you find yourself experiencing that painful burnout that happens to most of us from time to time, remember that one important step you can take to get the relief ball rolling is to update your API profile today! (Here’s a reminder of our member benefits). So, don’t delay!