Sticky Solutions

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Question: I manage a team of 12 people in the medical devices industry. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded last year, our team found it difficult to make informed decisions about our products, supply chains, and regulatory obligations in the midst of uncertainty. Like many other people in the medical industry, my team worked tirelessly through the year, putting themselves and their families at risk while they focused on doing their part in the fight. Their work is nothing short of heroic, and I want to do everything I can to keep them from getting serious burnout. What strategies do you recommend for mitigating burnout for my heroic team?



Answer: Our deep gratitude goes out to your team and all of the other people who rallied together last year to fight the ravages of COVID-19. While there is still much work to be done, there are simple strategies that you can take to support your team through the year as they continue the battle.


First, be sure to put on your own oxygen mask first. If you’re feeling crushed under your workload, it will be nearly impossible to effectively help others. When you do notice a potential indicator of burnout, hit the pause button for yourself and your employees. Ask yourself, “What just happened and why?” Stop and reflect on what role you might be playing in their burnout. Maybe you’ve set unrealistic deadlines given the context, or your own burnout is resulting in a lack of patience and snippy responses. Then ask them, “What just happened and why? What can I do to help?” Take the time to respond to the small issues with more understanding to prevent the burnout from getting worse.


Second, support them in the struggle. Most solutions to burnout aren’t one-size-fits-all. Knowing your employees well will help you work collaboratively to find ways to take the pressure off of them. Be creative. Maybe you can eliminate a particular source of stress, offload competing demands, offer suggestions for coping with pressure, or simply share a laugh about an issue that’s stressing you out as well. In the cases where you’re not able to take action, offer emotional support in the form of empathy and deep listening. Notably, genuine emotional support is required here. Well wishes like “have a nice weekend” and “get some rest” after you’ve just given them more work to do won’t cut it — perceived inauthenticity of well wishes can actually heighten feelings of burnout.



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