How to Support Your Burned Out Team When You're Wrecked Too


Laura MayDigital Editor at Just Another Magazine

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Team management, something always essential for smooth business operation, has become even more important after a disastrous and arduous 2020. Morale is low everywhere, of course, and while there’s more reason to be optimistic today than there was a few months ago, no one will feel ready to celebrate until the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a conclusive end.

Article 5 Minutes
How to Support Your Burned Out Team When You're Wrecked Too

Unfortunately, if you’re a business owner, an HR worker or simply a team leader, you know by now how difficult it is to be a rock for everyone else when you’re far from solid ground. Being in a managerial position doesn’t somehow render you immune to anxiety about the state of the world; in fact, it can easily make it worse by making you doubly responsible.

Not only do you need to be strong for your own wellbeing, but you also need to be strong to set an example for others. When everyone’s ready to throw in the towel, you need to be making the case to continue, showing vulnerability but ultimately exuding a reassuring level of confidence. That’s hard enough at the best of times, but what about when the work is proving too much?

Consider that even a regular workload is so much harder when your mood is low, and many people are needing to work harder than usual this year to get ahead while economies around the world fall deeper into recession. If you’re not close to exhaustion by this time of the year, you’re in a rare and fortunate position. And if you are, how are you supposed to handle it? Let’s go through some tips for supporting a team when you’re also struggling to get by:

Make time to focus on your wellbeing

There’s a reason why people are told to look after themselves if they’re ever in crisis situations: very simply, you can’t help anyone else if you’re not stable. But what does looking after yourself mean in this context? It means treating yourself as someone who deserves to be healthy and content and taking action to improve your mental and physical condition.

You’ll need to make time for that action, of course, and that might mean taking some time away from your managerial duties in the short term. You mustn’t feel guilty about this; it’s partially for your benefit, yes, but it’s mostly for the benefit of those you’ll ultimately be better equipped to support. Make it your top priority to reestablish yourself as someone ready to manage.

As for what the action should involve, it depends on what you think will help you. Are you physically tired? If so, you might benefit most from a break. Take some time off and do whatever relaxes you: watch TV, play games, read books, talk to friends, or learn to meditate (Headspace has some great tips). It’s possible that just a few days will be enough to fully revitalize you.

Maybe you’re mentally tired for one or more of various reasons. If so, you’d do well trying some wellness coaching: it’s incredibly difficult to accurately assess your own behavior and mental state, so getting some external advice will help. Many coaching services — Orion's Method being a prime example — offer multiple forms of coaching so you can decide what aspect of your life you’d like to focus on. Simple habit changes can make huge a difference.

Normalize your points of vulnerability

When you’re running low on energy, you can be tempted to put on a front for the team you’re managing. Surely you need to give the impression that you’re entirely unflappable, making it clear to everyone that they can lean on you when necessary and learn from your example? Wrong. All this will do is push people to feel worse about themselves in comparison to you.

Instead, you need to let people know that you’re just as vulnerable as they are. You also get anxious, tired, frustrated and miserable. In fact, everyone is similarly vulnerable. Some people are just better at hiding their vulnerabilities than others. Talking about this — showing honesty, something that’s hugely valuable but often overlooked — will help because it will bring you and your team members closer together. You’re all in the same boat.

Members of your team who occasionally think about giving up and quitting will be buoyed to learn that other people feel like that too. No longer inclined to think of themselves as singular failures with unique weaknesses, they’ll be better positioned to accept that they can persist and do better, even in the most trying circumstances.

Focus on reciprocal support actions

Just because you’re in a management position doesn’t mean the support needs to be one-way only. When you’re feeling low, why shouldn’t members of your team be there to help you? Now, you might think of this as a selfish framing — it isn’t your job to receive support, so if you’re getting help from the people you should be helping then you’re surely abandoning your duties.

In truth, it’s good for everyone involved. The more supported you feel, the better you’ll be able to do your job, and the more time members of your team spend helping you, the less time they’ll spend dwelling on their own issues. They’ll also find that supporting you leads them to be much kinder to themselves. People are their own worst critics, inclined to run themselves down for issues that they’d forgive easily in others.

In the end, these three central actions should go a long way toward helping you to support people with burnout. Look after yourself first, make it clear that being vulnerable is perfectly normal, and show that anyone who needs support (yourself included) should have the courage to ask those around them for help.

Laura May

Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine

Laura May is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine. We write about beauty, fashion, lifestyle, relationships, travel, trends and anything else that matters to you. Name throwing you off? Don’t take it too seriously – we intend to stand out from the crowd.


Join the conversation...