There’s a wonderful thing about the way that our minds and bodies function to keep us healthy. Throughout our nervous systems, our bodies are constantly processing information and sharing that information with the various systems that require it. When something goes wrong, our bodies will try to tell us.

But what if reach a point where you have been grinding out work and kept busy to such an extent that your body just seems to opt out? Burnout is something that many people in high-pressure environments have experienced. For those in management, employee burnout can lead to substandard work and loss of productivity, which in turn produce bad business results.

What is burnout?

Every job has a measure of responsibility that has the ability to induce stress. When these stresses are not dealt with effectively, they start to accumulate. Burnout happens when these stresses reach a point where work becomes exhausting.

Long-term, unresolved stresses are the main contributors to burnout in the workplace. Managers would do well to nurture a working environment in which their teams stay energised, feel valued, and are equipped to take on the smaller stress factors they will encounter.

Proactivity vs. Reactivity

There are two main forms of interaction between managers and staff that can have a measured effect on employee stress levels.

Some managers tend to take a reactive approach to the results of their employees. This means that action is implemented after results are seen, and often the employee only becomes aware of the higher-order concerns that affect them after the fact.

A proactive approach looks to implement action in the process of generating results. In this approach, the employee sees the effects of their work and grows in the process rather than only by way of learning about their results.

Proactive vs Reactive Approaches

Expectation management vs. Micromanagement

One way that stress builds is through the management of your employees. While employee management is vital to the success and progress of your business’s trade, the way that management takes place as a measured effect on the employee’s stress levels.

Management would be smart to take an expectation-based approach to their employee management tasks rather than a micromanagement approach. The expectation manager is someone who lets the employee know, in fair detail, what is expected of them, and does routine check-ups to assess the progress in their work. A micromanager, on the other hand, is someone who finds themself involved in every little affair in the employee’s work progress.

Micromanagement increases stress since there is a continuous interruption to the workflow of the employee. Expectation management gives the employee freedom to move and work with the knowledge that they are still accountable to the expectations set out from the start at any point.

Equipping vs. Correction

When it comes to how employee performance is assessed in the business world, many managers make the mistake of only assessing performance once the employees have finished their task. If the work is of a lower quality than expected, these managers will often correct their employees by showing them what a better end-product would look like.

When correction is the method used when attempting to improve an employee’s quality of work, it may lead to increased stress as the employee is unsure what exactly it is in the process that may make their work satisfactory or not.

Good managers will help equip their employees to improve their performance in the process (rather than only when the process has been completed. This difference between a formative learning experience and a summative assessment experience for employees can help pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of each individual, leading to a better end-product, increased confidence and less stress.

Creativity vs. False freedom

Another way in which employee stresses are increased and could lead to burnout is when they are given a sense of freedom in their work, but never feel that their creativity is valued or up to scratch.

Many managers like to give their teams a sense of freedom in their work in an effort to encourage ingenuity and fresh approaches to problem-solving. However, many employees find that their creative solutions to complex problems are often vetoed by their manager in favour of something else that they may not even be able to challenge.

Managers will do well to encourage creativity by discussing novel ideas with their employees and allow them to be heard. If the employee’s idea is challenged, the manager would do well to explain why another solution is favourable.

Role-development vs. Role-escalation

One of the easiest ways to cause burnout is in uncommunicated expectations for an employee’s role in a business. Naturally, you would want to be as clear as possible when opening up job applications for a vacancy or new position in your company, but most roles in the business world are constantly shifting.

Many employees start a new job with clear expectations, but somewhere along the line, they get lost when new tasks are assigned to them without clear guidance and are added to their duties. Many managers escalate the roles of their employees rather than allowing a process of transition from one role to another.

Choosing a proactive approach

Before you dive head-first into a new way of managing your employees, you must be warned that being proactive takes up energy and needs to be sustainable. Inconsistency can also be a source of stress for employees that may lead to burnout. Proactive approaches need to be planned and implemented systematically if they are to work.

That said, the benefits of a proactive approach to managing your employees outweigh the cons and could lead you and your team to more productivity and greater success.


  • http://www.seanhopwood.com/language/2018/03/10-traits-of-a-proactive-manager-5125
  • https://www.cornerstoneondemand.com/rework/how-be-proactive-manager
  • https://www.thisiscalmer.com/blog/5-stages-of-burnout

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.