Think You Know Which Of Your Employees Are On The Brink Of Burnout?: Think again!

By Andrew Shatté

This post originally appeared on

Change is inevitable. Any successful business manager knows that in order to stay relevant and competitive, an organization must continually evolve. Whether it’s the software company that has reached the limits of its market, the pharmaceutical giant that suddenly realizes its pipeline is sparse or the financial firm that needs a new business model to smooth out fluctuations, adaptability is imperative—from the CEO to the customer service representative and everyone in between.

But HR teams may be surprised to learn who among their employers will weather the storm (and who will not). Will it be Dev in advertising? Rochelle in marketing? Malik in sales? Some managers mistakenly assume that their highest-paid, highest-educated workers will be able to successfully navigate changes and adversity. After all, didn’t these employees need resilience to get to where they are now?
A recent study shows this is not necessarily the case. The study ‒ which measured the relationship between resilience and a range of job-related outcomes such as burnout, absence, productivity and sleep issues ‒ found that higher education and income do not guarantee that a person will be resilient in the face of adversity or change at work. In fact:
• More than half of the respondents (54 percent) making $75-$99,000 scored below average on resilience, and nearly half (41 percent) making $150,000 or more also scored below average for resilience
• Nearly half (42 percent) of employees earning $75,000 or more intend to quit their jobs – one symptom of low resilience – in the next six months
• 47 percent of those with bachelor’s degree and 44 percent of those with a master’s degree scored low in resilience

With half of all employees susceptible to the negative effects of low resilience, it’s imperative that businesses not just target low-paid and low-educated employees, but consider providing resilience training to all employees in order to become better prepared for change and adversity.

Here are three ways business leaders can cultivate more resilient workers, regardless of their education, income or title.

Lead by example: Managers can reduce change-related stress among their teams by demonstrating that they are more than capable of overcoming whatever obstacle they may be facing. Avoiding negative self-talk, ignoring emotional setbacks and even working elbow-to-elbow with employees on certain initiatives are all approaches leaders can take to show team members that change does not have to be stressful; rather it can open up opportunities to take risks and unleash innovation.

Facilitate opportunities for collaboration: Employees are better able to navigate stress when they feel they have social support. To that end, managers may consider making time to hold one-on-one meetings with their team members on a regular basis. These meetings can give employees the opportunity to voice their concerns, in addition to establishing a friendly rapport with managerial staff so team members feel comfortable flagging when they are stressed. Use the opportunity to show the employee how their contribution matters. Leaders can also set up social events to encourage bonding among co-workers.

Be flexible: With low control over workload being one of the greatest drivers of employee stress, managers should think about how they can give employees at all levels greater flexibility in how they complete assignments. Rather than mandating when and how a task gets done, leaders may consider letting the employee call the shots (within certain parameters). By empowering a more autonomous workforce, managers may find that their employees are more engaged at work because they have more ownership of assignments.

Change can be stressful. And no one is truly impervious to stress (as the study clearly shows). However, by taking steps to increase employees’ resilience capacity, business leaders will better equip team members to navigate stress and begin to see change as an opportunity for creativity and innovation, versus something to fear.