Project Management Q&A: How to Deal with Burnout

How do you raise the issue of burnout with a PM supervisor who constantly stretches the team? How can you do this without fear of being labelled a troublemaker and jeopardizing your career?

Great question and one that is surely relevant not only to those working in a project environment but any organisation that cares about its employees.

Now we all know that projects ebb and flow and sometimes reach a crescendo where all hands are required on deck to get through those challenging points of delivery. For many project management practitioners that is all part of the attraction to the job as they enjoy those periods of high stress and it gives them a real buzz.

However, continual levels of stress are not healthy for anyone of us and as you suggest can lead to burnout and many other unwanted conditions.

Unrelenting stress in the workplace is a problem most organisations do not want and thankfully the increased awareness around mental health has meant that many businesses are now taking this subject much more seriously.

As such I would start addressing the second part of your question first and say that you need to understand what is your company’s position with regards to stress and the health of its workforce? Situations like these often start at the top with the corporate culture and filter down throughout the organisation. If it is an accepted way of working and not just limited to your own project environment, then maybe you are in the wrong organisation if you do not thrive in what is seen as the cultural norm?

If on the other hand the organisation communicates openly about its position with regards to employee welfare, then maybe you have a starting point from which to address your concerns.

You need to establish if this is just a personal issue or something that is impacting colleagues across the team. Whatever the situation you then need to build a picture of what is the cause and wherever possible how this may be addressed to the satisfaction of all those concerned.

When you’re ready, schedule time with the supervisor to talk through current concerns. The vital part of the one-to-one conversation is not just to highlight how seriously it is impacting you and/or the team members, also to bring potential solutions to the problem.

With a focus on how the whole team, supervisor included, can find a solution that works for everyone, it’s hard to see how you can be singled out as a troublemaker when you’re working for the good of the team and the project and the business.

Should this approach fail, you then have the safety net to seek an escalation route to address the situation and the evidence that you have tried to resolve it at a local level which again should put you in good stead.

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