Is a Quest for Engagement Leading to Burnout?

By / Feb 5, 2018 (olm26250/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

 Are your most highly engaged workers also your most stressed?

Employee engagement is a valuable goal, and many organizations expend a lot of effort to encourage it. After all, increased engagement often results in a rise of productivity, employee retention, and quality of work. The gains are clear, but have you paused to consider that there may be a downside?

Harvard Business Review explores the cons of being a proactive and invested employee. “While engagement certainly has its benefits, most of us will have noticed that, when we are highly engaged in working towards a goal we can also experience something less than positive: high levels of stress,” write Emma Seppala and Julia Moeller.

A recent study from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence looks at the relationship between engagement and burnout amongst U.S. employees. The study found that two out of five employees reported high engagement and low burnout, but one out of five reported high engagement and high burnout.

“These engaged-exhausted workers were passionate about their work, but also had intensely mixed feelings about it—reporting high levels of interest, stress, and frustration,” say Seppala and Moeller. “While they showed desirable behaviors such as high skill acquisition, these apparent model employees also reported the highest turnover intentions in our sample—even higher than the unengaged group.”

The article goes on to provide guidance for maintaining engagement without burning out.

Speaking of burnout … a common phrase you use in internal meetings may be leading your team to exhaustion.

Have you caught yourself asking for your team to give 110 percent? “As a manager and leader, it is important to me that my team is operating at its best. But I never ask them for 110%,” writes Jamie Domenici in a recent Salesforce blog post. “Expecting 110 percent [of] your team’s effort and time is a great way to ensure burnout and low employee satisfaction.”

Domenici also says to cut office jargon such as “think outside the box,” “take it offline,” and “knowledge transfer” to make internal meetings more effective.

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