Published on August 28, 2023

Employee Burnout: Are Bad Managers to be Blamed?

Employee burnout is a prevalent issue in today’s dynamic work environment, often attributed to various factors. Among these, one factor that stands out is the role of managers. 

A recent SHRM survey uncovered that 84 percent of employees believe poorly trained managers contribute significantly to redundant work and escalate work stress. A single instance of employee burnout may not necessarily point to a problem with management, but a recurring pattern indicates deeper systemic issues. 

This article explores the complex relationship between management practices and employee burnout. If you’re a manager seeking insights on avoiding staff burnout, keep reading this article to learn about the approaches you may want to avoid.

How Managers Contribute To Employee Burnout

Leading by Example: The Hustle Mindset

The hustle culture is deeply ingrained in many workplaces, fueled by inspirational tales of leaders who achieved success through relentless dedication and exceptional hard work. These stories, while inspiring, can inadvertently exert immense pressure on employees to emulate similar work patterns, often pushing them beyond their limits. 

The actions of leaders can sometimes unintentionally undermine their own policies. For instance, a leader who promotes work-life balance but rarely takes time off or delegates tasks may send mixed messages. Employees might feel compelled to follow their leader’s actions rather than the stipulated policies, heightening their burnout risk. 

Unclear Expectations: A Recipe for Burnout

Unclear expectations refer to ambiguity in understanding the responsibilities and expected outputs tied to an employee’s role. This ambiguity can stem from a poorly defined job description or an unquantifiable workload, often leading to confusion, frustration, and burnout. Employees thrive in an environment where their roles are clearly defined, and they know what is expected of them. 

For instance, a software developer should know the scope of their projects, the expected quality of their code, and the average number of tasks they need to handle daily. While it’s challenging to quantify the exact workload, a benchmark based on industry and company standards can guide this. 

Digitization has greatly enhanced efficiency, prompting employers to allocate more tasks to employees. However, the challenge lies in understanding the demanding nature of these tasks, so it is important to consider the complexity of the tasks to avoid causing unhealthy stress levels and burnout in employees. 

Rewarding Workaholism: The Dangerous Precedence

A healthy work ethic is crucial for organizational success, but there’s a fine line between motivating hard work and inadvertently promoting workaholism. The distinction between diligence and unhealthy overwork can become blurred in many competitive industries. 

Praising or rewarding employees based solely on the number of hours worked rather than the quality or impact of the work can inadvertently encourage a culture of overwork. This can lead to a dangerous cycle where employees feel obliged to outdo their efforts, perpetuating burnout. 

To prevent this scenario, it’s vital to establish a balanced approach that recognizes productivity, creativity, and efficiency instead of just hours logged. This approach fosters a healthier work environment and encourages sustainable high performance. Striking this balance can ensure that employees feel valued for their results and not just their time, reducing the risk of burnout.

Remedying Employee Burnout

Taking proactive steps to remedy employee burnout benefits both employees and the organization. Providing regular breaks, flexible work hours, and clear communication about expectations can help alleviate stress. 

Moreover, employers must recognize that persistent burnout can lead to more serious workers’ comp mental health claims. As such, managers should consider seeking insurance support in deflecting liability resulting from such claims that can save thousands of dollars in such eventualities. 

Finally, fostering a culture of empathy and understanding can create a more resilient and supportive work environment. Encouraging open conversations about stress and burnout can help employees feel heard and understood, reducing the risk of burnout.


Effective management strategies can mitigate employee burnout, fostering a healthier work environment emphasizing balance, clear expectations, and values beyond hard work. 

Implementing effective management strategies can significantly reduce employee burnout, creating a healthier work environment that prioritizes work-life balance, provides clear expectations, and promotes values beyond solely hard work. 

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