Assessing Your Burnout Risk Factors

Employee burnout is one of the greatest risks posed to a nonprofit’s success. ESC consultant Sue Ogle teaches leaders to assess the following factors when reviewing their organization’s risks:

Workload
When assessing employee workload, nonprofit leaders should reflect on influences that may make the employees they manage unable to perform to their highest capacity. First, they should be sure the job is defined correctly. When a position is ill-defined, it can cause strife, confusion and a general sense that there is never enough work being covered. Secondly, managers should assess their expectations. Are they fair under the constraints of the position in question? And lastly, nonprofit leaders should check to see if a position, or the organization in general, is under-resourced. This last point is common among nonprofits, so leaders should be diligent in demonstrating and teaching efficiency when resources are tight.

Control
Is the employee given autonomy and an open forum to share influential opinions? This is ideal in preventing burnout, as micromanagement or restriction of decision power can greatly affect the passions of a previously enthusiastic employee.

Reward and Recognition
If an employee is underpaid or generally unfulfilled in his or her work, don’t expect energy levels to stay high for long. This burnout factor can be intensified if the employee is also not recognized for doing good work. Managers should be careful to keep praise genuine—dig deep to find something regularly, whether that is every day or every week, that your employees do well and voice that to them.

Fairness
Nonprofit leaders also must be aware of tendencies to play favorites or to participate in office politics. Blurring the lines between professionalism and cliqueiness is a sure way to make employee energy levels drop hard and fast.

Values
Keep check of how your employees relate to your mission. It’s important for nonprofit leaders to remind their staff of why they do what they do in the first place, and what drew them to the organization; in the nonprofit sector, it is inevitable that at least part of the draw for any employee is the mission.

Work Team
Stay in touch with how individual employees mesh with other staff members and the organization’s board. If there is disconnection, burnout can happen easily. Work daily to keep employees on the same page with one another and your nonprofit’s culture overall.

If your nonprofit could benefit from affordable management consulting, please contact ESC’s Director of Consulting, Ulea Lago, at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550. We serve nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit for all interested area nonprofits.

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