Research Paper By Lynda French
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
From office to office, executive to executive, those that silently suffer, perhaps unrecognizable to those around them, with corporate executive burnout. It’s happening all too often in corporations. Unfortunately, it’s becoming commonplace and seemingly part of the culture to expect that at some time in an executive’s career, they will experience executive burnout.
According to Collin Dictionary executive burnout by definition is,
A total loss of energy and interest and an inability to function effectively, experienced by some executives as a result of excessive demands upon their resources or chronic overwork (Collins, 2013).
The signs are sometimes hard to spot at first, but as an executive coach, I see this occur quite frequently in my professional practice. I have found that initially it may just be a lack of energy or limited motivation to get their tasks completed. At some point, the executive increasingly does not want to go to work. They may feel physically drained. Eventually things may move on to emotional detachment to coworkers or clients. Possibly even more harmful to an executive is the anger and resentment that will build through burnout. Little issues become major issues which will cause high level anxiety and a racing heartbeat. This may cause trouble sleeping, which will compound the issues and cause more stress for the next day. An even more troubling scenario are those suffering from stomach and chest pains that may occur with the stress of burnout.
Executive burnout is on the rise. Why? One main reason is because of the instability in the economic times that we are in. Many executives are feeling the pressure to reduce costs. One way to ease the financial burden is to reduce staff and reassign work amongst their current employees. Human resource organizations likelSHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) are finding the needs to assist their own departments to help ease the stress of executive burnout. David Rhodes, a principal and senior consultant at Towers Perrin, an HR consulting firm, stated,
HR professionals are faced with huge challenges dealing with a workforce that is disengaged and economic pressures to do more with less (Andrews, 2013).
The reality for many executives today is to maintain their level of excellence while carrying a heavier workload. It may come at a cost to sustain those levels. To maintain the workload with little stress relief in sight often causes the beginning of their burnout. To add to their burdens, showing vulnerability in the workplace can be associated with signs of weakness so they are often reluctant to share until the signs of burnout become obvious.
According to a survey done in 2011 by CareerBuilders, a national recruiting company, seventy-seven percent of workers say that they are sometimes or always feeling burned out on the job. Forty-six percent have seen an increase in job responsibilities in the last six months with only eight percent seeing a decrease in job responsibilities. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Simon Kinsella, from the Institute of Performance Well Being, wants businesses to arrange a yearly annual mental health check for top employees. He states,
I am definitely seeing more cases of executive burnout. Executives and CEOs have a higher level of pressure to deal with such as mergers or insolvencies. However, most executives and CEO’s have very driven personalities, they feel weak if they are not coping, and they fear if they show signs of weakness, the culture at executive level will see them as vulnerable.
According to the percentages and Psychologist Simon Kinsella, many are finding that they need to turn to executive coaching professionals for assistance. Executives seem to have added burdens beyond what some of their employees may have. (Taylor, 2012)
The need for coaches to assist with executive burnout is increasing at a dramatic rate in today’s fast paced business world. Various coaching areas are helping to fulfill those needs. I have seen a need for executive coaching like never before. Companies that have viewed coaching as an “extra” benefit in the past are now seeing it as a necessity to achieve success in day to day operations. Retaining good executives has reduced costs and kept them from leaving. A survey done by researchers from three Quebec universities conducted a study for the insurance company Standard Life. The survey concluded that,
lost productivity related to absenteeism and so-called presenteeism (when a worker is physically present but unproductive) and turnover cost Canadian companies $6.3 billion in 2011 (TorontoSun, 2013).
Companies are recognizing that supporting their current executives and employees far outweigh the cost of replacing them and produce happier employees. Happier employees are productive employees.
Executive coaches provide executives with a confidential, nonjudgmental, and open time to share what is going on in their world. This has given them a new sense of ownership to their positions. Hiring a coach from outside the company provides the executive with a unique opportunity because the coach is not a co-worker but an outside “ear.” The coach does not have any preconceived notions of what is and isn’t happening in the executive’s environment. This unique opportunity has given the executive a chance to share their experiences and what he/she sees in their environment. Just sharing their experience out loud has helped them to see how their thoughts and preconceived notions may have added to their burnout. With thoughtful questioning from a coach, they are given the opportunity to produce their own solutions that have proven to be most helpful.