Manageable Articles

Thought-provoking perspectives on organisations.

Preventing burnout: managers in the frame again

Gallup’s State of Global Workplace 2022 Report has just been published, along with a letter from Gallup’s CEO, Jim Clifton. He writes about one of the largest studies on burnout which finds that 76% of us at work will suffer burnout at some point.

The top five sources of burnout according to the study cited by Jim are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Unclear communication from managers
  4. Lack of manager support
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

There’s a common factor isn’t there? The manager. Jim says a bad boss is almost guaranteed to leave you hating your job:

a bad boss will ignore you, disrespect you and never support you. Environments like that can make anyone miserable. A manager’s effect on a workplace is so significant that Gallup can predict 70% of the variance in team engagement just by getting to know the boss.

What do miserable people do? McKinsey recently studied people who quit their job without one to go to. The top reason these people gave for quitting was "uncaring leaders".

We know the fix don’t we? Better managers. Jim goes on to say:

Managers need to be better listeners, coaches and collaborators. Great managers help colleagues learn and grow, recognize their colleagues for doing great work, and make them truly feel cared about. In environments like this, workers thrive.

I wonder what proportion of the world’s 130m managers are the kind that Jim talks about: great coaches to their teams? According to Gallup only 2 in 10 are naturally prone to coaching. The rest need to be coached to coach, so to speak. Rather urgently I’d say.

Now, if you’re a leader with responsibility for all your people you might be hoping that more than 20% of your managers are great coaches. What is the proportion in your organisation? If the definition of manager is coach to the team, then we should be shooting for 100%. Wouldn’t it be great to get your hands on a quick-to-deploy tool to measure what the proportion really is?

And once you know, you can upskill managers so that they are better listeners, coaches and collaborators in practice rather than theory. There's then the question about what is the best way to do this effectively and affordably. I've written before about not falling victim to the great training robbery.

Leaders have an urgent responsibility to gift everyone at work a great manager. After all, burnout comes at or near the end of a long decline in well-being that can be prevented.