Burnout, simply explained, is the emotional and physical depletion of energy that one experiences when they’ve been under chronic workplace stress for a very long time and haven’t managed it.
Briony Liber, career- and self-leadership coach, describes a person who is burnt out as someone who has gone through the journey of being highly engaged in their work to being depleted, negative, cynical, withdrawn and not contributing the value that one would want from a high performer.
Research, she says, showed that 89% of top managers have reported feeling this way, which means only 11% of top managers are fully engaged in the workplace.
All because society and organisations expect professionals, including legals, to work a good hundred hours a week, which is two and half times more than the normal working hours, in order to achieve their targets.
“Industry is saying this is acceptable; this is what you need to expect. When you’re trying to meet that at an individual level, you start finding yourself absolutely exhausted. But the narrative is, ‘I’ve got to meet this and I’m an epic failure if I’m not meeting it.’ You kind of get caught up in this vicious cycle of ‘I'm really, really exhausted, but I need to work even harder in order to prove myself’,” she says.
Liber reveals that almost every person she has spoken to in the legal industry has talked to her about burnout. “They’ve either been hospitalised because of burnout or they’ve changed careers completely or the direction in terms of the legal work that they do because they’ve burnt out.”
She points out that workplaces should have systems in place to prevent their employees from burning out. “I think you have to design your systems to support and enable people to delegate. You have to design and reward the behaviours where leaders and teams are supporting the ethos of ‘We want a sustainable lifestyle here. We don’t want to burn our people out’.”
Liber advises that boundaries, as difficult as it may be for an individual, must be set, if their well-being is to be considered.
The conversation between Tom and Liber includes her own experience of having suffered burn out twice, and coping mechanisms she employed.
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