5 Coping Skills to Help Avoid Burnout | SOS Podcast

5 Coping Skills to Help Avoid Burnout | SOS Podcast

Workplace burnout is a trending topic and an area of growing concern for many companies.  Directly attributed to unmanaged stress, AEU LEAD Director and SoS host Joe White identifies common causes of supervisor burnout and offers five suggestions to help reduce the likelihood of its occurrence.





The SOS Podcast is a production of AEU LEAD, an organization redefining how mid and frontline managers are developed.


Joe White:

Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Joe White, and this is the Supervisor Skills Secrets of Success Podcast. In this episode, I want to address a concern of growing importance and one that seems to be present throughout every industry I've been involved with over the past few years. In a break from tradition, the focus today is on you, the listener. Whereas I routinely address employee needs, today's episode is all about the supervisor. Our topic of discussion involves burnout. Most have experienced it at one point or another, and no one is immune to it. Hopefully, I'll be able to share some insights over the next eight minutes or so that you'll find of value and benefit. That said, let's get started.

The World Health Organization describes burnout as a condition that results from chronic workplace stress that's not successfully managed. It results in irritability, difficulty remaining focused, negative mental or physical symptoms, and low job satisfaction. As for its prevalence in the workplace, a Changing America survey recently found that worker burnout levels hit an all-time high in 2022, with rates exceeding those reported at any point during the pandemic. For anyone that's experienced it, it's a sign that something needs to change.

Because burnout is rooted in unmanaged stress, it can and often does impact mental health and well-being. Enduring stress is seemingly inescapable in a post-COVID economy. While the causes vary, they're increasingly present from most supervisors. And according to most subject matter experts, this trend is likely going to get worse before getting better. And for that reason alone, it's important for us to recognize those things that can lead to burnout and to develop coping skills in response to it. As for causes of burnout, here are several of the most cited:

  • Excessive or challenging workloads 
  • Lack of control over areas of responsibility
  • Inadequate training for daily challenges faced
  • Constantly shifting or unfair expectations
  • Micromanagement

Regarding coping skills, here are five recommendations you might consider to help avoid burnout:


1. Get organized.

I work exclusively in labor-dependent industries and have found, on average, that only three out of 10 supervisors routinely use a planner, journal, or other means of tracking priorities or open items. A secret of success for supervisors that consistently exceed performance expectations is that they're organized and on top of things they have responsibility for. Find a system that works for you and your situation, and take advantage of the benefits it provides. Doing so will certainly reduce anxiety and stress associated with missed deadlines or avoidable oversights.


2. Establish priorities.

When emergency responders arrive on scene, they assess the situation at hand and develop response plans based on priorities. They use this approach because it works. As a supervisor, you must determine what goes first and what must wait. Level one priorities go before level two. While both are likely important, they're not equally important. To help alleviate stress, share rankings with your manager, especially if you're new. Doing so allows them the opportunity to understand your frame of reference and helps build alignment with business objectives.


3. Have a plan.

Supervisors often share with me that daily planning is futile. Most cite the inevitable events outside their control that routinely pop up as inescapable time drains. It's for this very reason that planning is even more important. A ship at sea caught up in a storm can drift miles off course. While orientation and positioning may be impacted, the destination isn't. Having a plan to complete prioritized tasks is the only way to proactively achieve them. If not this morning, this afternoon. If not today, tomorrow. Daily planning is a key to success and a great way to reduce stress.


4. Delegate when you can. 

I've long said delegation is a lost art. At a point in time when it's needed more than ever before, supervisors are less inclined than at any point in the past to use this management tool. If you have high-performing employees that are ready, willing, and able to take on tasks you're comfortable passing along to them, why not do it? In the process of doing so, you'll free up time for yourself and create an opportunity for employee development that otherwise wouldn't exist - a win-win situation.


5. Work on communications.

As for causes of stress among employees, eight out of 10 point to ineffective communication. For most, it's not a peer-to-peer sort of issue. It's barriers in communication with direct supervisors that's in desperate need of attention and repair. When communication breakdowns occur, there's a natural tendency to point to others and assign blame. While the strategy may help some feel better, it typically doesn't resolve underlying issues. Regardless of who's at fault, you should accept responsibility for communicating in a manner that recreates an employee's mind, an exact replica of what's in yours. Owning the communication process is a key to improving it over time, and it helps reduce a lot of unnecessary stress between you and your employees.

Whether burnout is a modern affliction or an innate human condition is a subject of debate. Whether it is or isn't real, however, is not. Unmanaged enduring stress over time spells trouble and will ultimately lead to undesired consequences in the form of burnout. While it may not be entirely avoidable, its impact can certainly be reduced through coping skills anyone can adopt through practice. Hopefully, you'll be able to take away one or two suggestions today that will help you better manage stress related to the daily challenges you face.

Thank you for joining us. We greatly appreciate your time as a listener. Our next podcast is scheduled to air July 14th. For that episode, we'll be tackling the topic of conflict resolution. Beyond that, we'll enter the second half of season three and look forward to bringing you six more episodes this year. Should you have any questions or need additional information regarding today's topic, just let us know. Our contact information is provided in the show notes accompanying this episode. And for those that may not have reviewed or rated your experience with our show, we would greatly appreciate you doing so. Until next time, stay safe, and thanks for listening.

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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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