I wish I’d get the flu…
and other things we say when company cultures accelerate burnout.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Man, I hope that car hits mine. No severe injuries or anything…I just need some time off.” Your variation might be different, but anyone who is overworked, or even overwhelmed has probably thought these things and kept it to themselves. Well…it’s something I got to say it out loud to another person… and it felt good. It felt good because what my friend said next made me feel less alone. She said, “I’ve thought about voluntarily committing myself because then it would be a few days off, but it wouldn’t keep me from getting another job or go on any kind of searchable record.”
Sidenote: Luckily, I work in an industry where evaluating people for being mentally unstable is a norm. I’ve seen and talked to people who have plans for suicide and they require intervention. Neither myself, nor my friend, are suicidal, but I wouldn’t be afraid to admit it if I was, or call someone on my friend if I thought she was. You shouldn’t be either. If you’re feeling suicidal, or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Hotline 1–800–273–8255 or dial 911 immediately.
That being said, this is something different. This is not two people talking about ending their lives; this is two people talking about how suffocating their work/workplace has become. How mentally they don’t think it’s enough to take time off for a day or two; it wouldn’t be enough time away. Using vacation days to sit at home doesn’t seem like a good enough use of time off, but there isn’t enough money in the bank to go somewhere or do something that feels fulfilling enough. Can’t really use sick days because, technically you’re not ‘sick’. As a society, we don’t have mental health days and the stigma surrounding mental health is such that if most people were to tell their employer that they needed one, they may feel that retaliation in the form of decreased responsibilities, being shunned, or even possibly being let go, are real threats.
So what do you do? You keep hoping that something, the Universe, Fate, God, something will intervene and take the choice out of your hands.
Where interventions need to start happening are within companies or organizations. Company cultures have A LOT to do with whether employees will feel that they’re thriving or sinking. It’s not enough anymore to look around and measure your profit margins or even productivity. The people at the top truly need to start analyzing the way that the way you manage. Are other employees held accountable for their actions? Is the culture one of caring about the people you’re working for (customers/clients) as well as caring about employees? Do you do regular evaluations of your employees to let them know where they’re at? Do you have your employees evaluate you to see where you’re at?
If you’re a manager, a CEO, an executive director… basically if you’re in charge of anyone, and you are not checking in with your employees on a regular basis to find out how your company culture is doing… how your employees are doing, you are at risk of losing people. If you’re not willing to get in the trenches and figure out how to, within reason, make the workplace one that your employees want to be in, you will lose people. I just heard Gary Vaynerchuk talk about this on his audiobook, “#AskGaryVee”. Leadership is important…managing people is important.
Sidenote: I fucking love this guy, Gary Vee. Just found him a couple weeks ago while I was looking for inspiration, and man did I find it. He’s the whole reason I’m writing this post now. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that sooner than later. But if you’re being crippled by perfection, Gary is the guy that will kick your ass into gear…at least that’s what he’s doing for me.
If you think you’re not doing a good job of creating a great company/organization culture, your employees probably think you’re doing even worse, or you could also just be a perfectionist and your employees may love you. You will never know unless you ask and you’ve already built in safety for people to be honest with you. Honesty is huge here because employees will tell you whatever you want to hear if they think you’re not sincere in the ask. You will have to back up your question with some action, otherwise your people will think you’re all talk and will have a hard time wanting to tell you the truth.
For people working at places where you’re unhappy, the truth is only you can change it. I know, it sounds like such a cliché answer, but it’s the truth. My friend and I both know it. As unhappy as we might be, we are the only ones who can change our circumstances. Ultimately, we need to get real with ourselves and figure out what we’re doing and what we want. We need to take better care of ourselves. Figure out what keeps you sane, how to find your balance, and actually go do those things.
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