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HR Burnout
You love your job, or at least you used to.You have great work/life balance… well, maybe not lately… and you feel rested… sometimes. Could you be experiencing HR burnout?

What Is HR Burnout?

General employee burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, according to an article in the Annual Review of Psychology. HR burnout is specific to our line of work.

Why Is It Important to Know About HR Burnout?

It’s important to understand HR burnout for personal, financial, and business strategy reasons.
  • This can directly affect you. If you are reading this, you are more than likely in an HR role. HR burnout happens slowly over time and can be hard to identify before you have hit the point of lapsed performance or are looking for a new job or even career.
  • Business strategy. HR is an important function in any business. We impact the bottom line and often have direct contact with the public as we interview and hire. If HR representatives are burned out, they are not performing to the best of their ability and can dampen the experience (or even the quality of) of new/current employees.
  • Financial implications. Once an employee becomes burned out, they underperform by making mistakes or from apathy. In addition, the cost to hire a replacement when the employee decides to move on is prohibitive. It is much cheaper to retain talent by putting processes and staffing in place to prevent burnout.

Signs of HR Burnout

The signs of HR burnout might not always be apparent to the person experiencing them. Here is a list of signs that you or an HR person you know may be experiencing burnout.

Feeling Exhausted

When an employee is burned out, they have feelings of exhaustion. Sleeping more or less can be a sign of exhaustion. Burned-out employees can be plagued with thoughts in the night about looming deadlines and tough conversations that could have gone better. It can feel like your metaphorical gas tank is on E no matter how much sleep you get.

Increasing and Consistent Negative Thoughts

There is a definite spectrum of thoughts about our employers. In the beginning, hopefully, the thoughts are very positive; at some point, they usually level out to neutral or still slightly positive. As an employee approaches burnout, there is a gradual increase in negative thoughts that may shift to an almost consistent negative outlook on their work duties, manager, or employer.

Lower Quality of Work

Burnout leads to a lower quality of work. The mental and sometimes physical strain prevents employees from being the best they can be. More typos, errors, and forgetfulness typically coincide with a burned-out employee.

Irritability or Anger

Another sign of burnout can be a change in social behavior. A once patient and pleasant employee can start to lash out in anger or frustration.

Feelings of Abandonment

Another sign that could be outwardly expressed or felt internally are feelings of abandonment. Burnout typically comes from an increased and seemingly never-ending workload. It is easy for the person to feel abandoned by manager, peers, or the company who leaves them to struggle unsupported.

Causes of HR Burnout

The cause of HR burnout can be a single thing or a combination of factors. Here are a few items that could be the cause.

Workload or Overload

Companies often transform to stay relevant in the market. Changing technology, shifting employee markets, and changing consumer buying habits all involve human resources. The feelings of high demands and low resources may pile up.

Lack of Autonomy

Long-term feelings of not having control of one's life or work can contribute to burnout. Without a feeling of ownership, apathy and resentment can occur.

Lack of Recognition

Employees who consistently perform above and beyond can be motivated intrinsically for a while, but many thrive on positive reinforcement or recognition of some nature. Without a signal that they are being appreciated, burnout can develop.

Workplace Relationships

Our relationships with peers, direct reports, and managers impact our mood and job satisfaction more than we think. According to Ragins and Dutton in Positive relationships at work: An introduction and invitation, positive connections and interactions with our work peers create a positive environment that gives us energy. Conversely, negative relationships deplete our energy and negatively impact the work environment.

How to Prevent HR Burnout

Now that we have covered the causes and signs, let’s talk about how to prevent HR Burnout.
“Being in HR is tough—we're so focused on the employee experience, preventing staff burnout, and everything else that comes our way that it's common for us to get lost in the chaos. Friendly reminder to take your PTO, call in sick when you're sick, reach out to a friend or family member to connect/chat/vent, go to therapy if you can and want to, and try your best to leave work at work. When you're done for the day, try to make a point of doing something you enjoy doing. I've also recently started connecting more with other HR professionals—it can really help to know you're not alone in the struggles you're facing. We're right here with you.” — Katelyn DeBus

Step 1: Maintain Boundaries

One of the biggest causes of burnout is overwork, which can be caused by taking on everything yourself. Protect your time and ensure you are taking care of your own needs. Make sure to take your lunch away from your workstation, and don’t take calls after you have clocked out or left for the day unless they are extremely urgent. Work with your manager or leader to determine what is considered urgent and can’t wait until the next time you are scheduled to work.

Step 2: Be Realistic

Everything can feel urgent, and it is easy to say yes to every request and every deadline. Make sure you are being realistic with yourself and the clients who are making the requests. Your time is valuable. You negotiate money, so you should negotiate your time as well. Before you say yes to urgent requests, find out the requestor's deadline and if the request is urgent.

Step 3: Be Honest

If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, be honest with your leader early. Talk through a plan of completion for your tasks and suggest alternatives if things have slowly been added to your plate that have tipped your balance of feasibility.

Step 4: Take Time Off

Sometimes the simplest solution is to take time off to recharge the body and mind. After your request is approved, turn your work phone off, turn the out of office email on, and enjoy your break. Often people are worried about taking time off as there will be work waiting for them upon return. Take the time to rest and recharge. You’ll be able to take care of the work more effectively when you are feeling better.
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Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes

Sarah is a Compensation Advisor with Archer-Daniels-Midland Company supporting Global and Corporate Compensation. Formerly an HR Business Partner for 5 years. She is committed to building diverse teams and developing common processes. When not rocking out her role, she is watching anime, playing Xbox, or out dancing.
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