Recognizing burnout in a coworker can help address their struggles early and support them through a tough period. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
Here are some signs that a coworker might be experiencing burnout…
- Increased Cynicism or Negativity – A once enthusiastic and positive coworker becoming noticeably more cynical, negative, or critical at work.
- Withdrawal – Withdrawing from workplace activities, social interactions, or not participating in meetings as they used to. They might isolate themselves and stop engaging with others both professionally and socially.
- Changes in Work Performance – A noticeable decline in work quality or productivity. They might miss deadlines, have a decrease in output, or make more mistakes than usual.
- Appearance of Exhaustion – They may consistently look tired, overwhelmed, or express feelings of being drained. Physical signs of stress, such as dark circles under the eyes, significant weight loss or gain, or a general look of being run down, can also be indicators.
- Increased Irritability or Impatience – Exhibiting a shorter temper or frustration with tasks or people they used to handle calmly. Small problems may provoke a strong reaction.
- Frequent Illness – Stress can weaken the immune system. If a coworker seems to be getting sick more often than usual, it might be a sign of burnout.
- Changes in Work Habits or Hours – Coming in late, leaving early, or working long hours to compensate for decreased productivity. They might also take longer breaks than usual.
- Lack of Enthusiasm – Showing little interest in the work or projects that they used to find engaging or rewarding. They might express feelings of meaninglessness regarding their tasks.
- Detachment – Displaying a sense of detachment from their work or colleagues. They might seem indifferent about what happens in the workplace or about the outcomes of their efforts.
- Expressing Hopelessness – Talking about work as if nothing they do matters or expressing a lack of optimism about their career prospects or the impact of their work.
- Increase in Errors – Making more errors than usual in their work, which can be a sign of decreased focus and mental exhaustion.
If you notice these signs in a coworker, you have to approach the situation with sensitivity. Burnout is a serious issue that can affect an individual’s mental and physical health. Offering support, listening to their concerns, encouraging them to seek help, or discussing workload adjustments with management (if appropriate) can be beneficial steps. The goal is to support them in finding a healthier work-life balance and to encourage them to seek professional help if needed.