How Managers Can Help Employees Combat Burnout Using Strengths


Managers sit on the front lines between the organization and employees as key players in preventing and combating burnout. Regardless of the industry, burnout has become a buzzword in offices across the globe. According to Gallup, fighting burnout is something that nearly all workers must do at some point, as only 24% report that they “rarely” or “never” feel burned out at work.

Although so many have an opinion on what burnout is, when we don’t put it in the proper context, we dig an even deeper hole. We can’t talk about burnout in isolation from one’s career. The World Health Organization defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon. It’s chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed. We don’t burn out based on a bad day. It takes a series of them. It’s like I’ve said for years, “stress is situational, and burnout is habitual.”

Like you, I’m concerned about well-being, the currency of work (skills) and ensuring employees experience fulfilling careers through holistic professional development.

Gallup recently created Prevent and Overcome Burnout: A Strengths-Based Guide. It’s a good starting point to raise awareness and help managers and leaders learn how their strengths inform their response to workplace stress and how to use them to prevent burnout. Sometimes, one’s natural responses to burnout feel helpful in the moment, but they don’t help facilitate lasting change. Gallup found that an individual’s natural coping mechanism is generally less effective than coping strategies that use and capitalize on their strengths. Let’s look at the four CliftonStrengths themes, formerly StrengthsFinder, exploring what comes naturally and better approaches.

Executing theme

Executors make ideas a reality and find it easier to implement solutions. Executing theme strengths include: Achiever, Arranger, Belief, Consistency, Deliberative, Discipline, Focus, Responsibility and Restorative.

What comes naturally?

Employees high in executing themes find it easy to turn toward coping strategies that give them a sense of accomplishment, like exercising or making a career-related purchase.

A better approach

  • Occasionally pause to examine their definition of success and sense of worth outside of their career and achievements.
  • Stopping to think through their situation and ensure they have the time, space and capacity to follow through.

Influencing theme

Influencers take charge, speak up and convey ideas inside and outside the organization. Influencer theme strengths include: Activator, Command, Communication, Competition, Maximizer, Self-Assurance, Significance and Woo.

What comes naturally?

Employees high on influencing strengths often utilize coping strategies that give them a sense of impacting others, like spending more time with family and friends and thinking about how their work contributes to future goals.

Ways to improve

  • Exercising or engaging in personal relaxation, a social media detox or creative pursuits.
  • Re-framing their mindset around the fear of being considered as not being a team player.

Relationship Building theme

Relationship builders bring individuals together and make the team stronger and more impactful by uniting members to achieve shared success. Relationship builder strengths include: Adaptability, Connectedness, Developer, Empathy, Harmony, Includer, Individualization, Positivity and Realtor.

What comes naturally?

Thinking of others around them and how they might feel about the same situations and considering how their work affects others.

A better approach

  • Creating the space to look inward.
  • Soliciting support by leaning into their ability to form solid relationships and enlist allies.

Strategic Thinking theme

Strategic Thinkers enjoy absorbing and analyzing information to help the team make better decisions and stretch the teams thinking for the future. Strategic thinker strengths include: Analytical, Context, Futuristic, Ideation, Input, Intellection, Learner and Strategic.

What comes naturally?

Giving themselves space to think when they experience burnout often leads to a greater sense of self-awareness around their burnout causes and triggers.

Ways to improve

  • Re-framing their thinking and seeing the situation as a challenge to find a way to succeed.
  • Using their skills to help advocate for organizational change.

Hopefully, this has sparked further thought, ideas and questions about how strengths fit in with the broader context of common burnout organizational causes. The other side is ensuring employees know how to translate their strengths into job tasks and roles to avoid career misalignment.

Think of job-based strengths as a combination of knowledge, attributes and skills. These three elements then work together to produce a natural ability in a specific task, action (skill) or project that leaves you in a state of flow and not drained. Once employees identify a strength, they need to know how they prefer to use it. It’s also important for employees to understand the value of their strengths, as it often connects to their purpose. To continue unpacking, employees can reflect on a question like, what’s the most meaningful thing you’ve done in your career? Their answer likely ties together their strengths and hints at a value and purpose.

Being a manager has never been more challenging, from navigating the effects of a post-pandemic workplace to supporting remaining employees during a layoff and meeting the global workforce’s fast-growing geographic and cultural needs. I hope you have what you need to make your job easier. If you don’t, what do you need from your leaders to cultivate a healthy, high-performing team?

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