Don’t go down in flames

Jul 25, 2021

Burnout is blazing through workplaces at a rapid pace and negatively impacting productivity, morale, and retention.

Burnout. It’s the work-related stress and exhaustion that is blazing through workplaces at a rapid pace and negatively impacting productivity, morale, and retention. Think it doesn’t impact you or your firm? Think again. A reported 77 percent of people are experiencing burnout at their current job, so there is a strong likelihood it’s happening to your employees (or to you). The signs and symptoms range from decreased utilization and engagement to increased fatigue, apathy, and inaccuracy.

To fix, and even prevent, burnout in yourself and your employees, we’re sharing 10 reasons people burnout and ways to fix each one. However, it’s important to realize that these aren’t quick, band-aid fixes. Many of these solutions will take intentional implementation, time, and commitment to be successful. Let’s get started.

The top 10 causes and fixes:

  1. You missed the point. Or, worse yet – you don’t know what the point is. This is the first step to fixing burnout: set goals. This shouldn’t be a lofty vision statement either. Goals should be measurable and feasible. The bottom line is that you need to figure out where you’re going – whether as an individual, department, or company.
  2. You traded momentum for monotony. Once you’ve set a goal, the next step is to make a plan to achieve it. Often, we’re burned out because we may know what the goal is – make more money, achieve a billable percentage, or gain a new client/market – but we don’t know how to get there. This leads to spinning our wheels or going in different directions depending on the day. It also gets monotonous. Instead, allow for creativity when developing your plan. Bounce ideas off others. Determine specific, small, sustainable steps that will get you there. And, most importantly once you’ve developed a plan, stick to it and communicate it.
  3. You don’t have a culture of coaching. Feelings of burnout can often be caused by either your frustration with younger/inexperienced staff or their frustration with you (or other reasons). To avoid this, adapt a culture of and commitment to coaching. At Croy, we’re intentional about investing in our up-and-coming engineers. This includes nominating them for leadership development and/or training programs; taking time to explain the intangibles of the business, such as how to dress for a meeting; and bringing them to client and industry meetings. We’re learning that when people have a clear career path and feel invested in it, they are less likely to feel fatigued and burned out.
  4. You got off track. Even with a great plan in place, things can get off-track – goals aren’t met, team members quit, or budgets get blown. When this happens repeatedly, it’s easy to feel burned out. You need to adjust your expectations and attitude. Learn to expect the unexpected. Plan for the crisis even if it may not happen. At Croy, we believe it’s better to have a 30-minute conversation to plan for the worst-case scenario that turns out to be unnecessary than to not have the conversation and waste valuable time, resources, and money reacting to the situation if it does.
  5. You listened to the drama. Office gossip and drama can derail a team faster than anything else. It can cause feelings of discouragement, frustration, fatigue, and eventually, burnout. Our advice: Ignore the (petty) noise. But also, give your employees a safe space to vent and voice their frustrations (we recommend that venting should occur “up the ladder,” not sideways).
  6. You need control. We can get burned out when we’re trying to control everything. This is exhausting and unsustainable. Instead, learn to let go and empower others. We refer to this as encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit with our employees. Find opportunities and ways to let them take ownership – whether to pitch a new idea, explore an emerging software, or lead a project.
  7. You quit. We’ve all felt the urge (and some of us have done it): We feel burned out, so we quit. And sometimes it’s the right move. But if you’re leaving a job for the wrong reason, you’re going to go from the frying pan into the fire. Instead, evaluate the situation before making the leap; it may be better to stick it out. Making a lateral move can leave you feeling further behind in your career and less motivated as you work to prove yourself yet again for little career promotion or reward.
  8. You stick to your network. Think bigger. When we expand who we’re around, we expand the ideas and opinions we’re exposed to. Whether it’s getting involved with a new industry association, Chamber of Commerce, or leadership development course – expand your horizons.
  9. You’re too serious. We tend to be serious as engineers, but sometimes what you need to break the burnout is to have fun. At Croy, we implement this by hosting impromptu fun days (that don’t have to break the bank), including “Thanks a Lotto for All You Do,” a day when we handed out $1 lottery scratch-offs to employees, and “Nothing Bundt Thankful for You,” when we had mini-bundt cakes delivered to the office for employees.
  10. You’re unhappy. A good friend and speaker, Dr. Ken Harmon, preaches to “choose happiness.” When we’re burned out, it’s easy to only see the negatives. It takes a deliberate effort to focus on the positives. We all have our go-to way to help adjust our perspective and change our mood: Listen to your favorite song (mine is “Good Day” by Nappy Roots). Buy a latte. Call a friend. Take a small action to help turn your day – and attitude – around.

Eddie Wade, PE is an executive vice president at Croy Engineering and one of five owners. He can be reached at

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