What do you do when the burnout just isn’t going away and the cause, work, just makes you more and more cranky?
The easy answer is to leave and find someplace else to go. Why stay somewhere that’s increasingly making you more miserable? At my previous full-time position, I resigned for that very reason. The lack of growth that awaited me for many more years to come when I knew I was too talented and capable of doing more was enough for me to flee the scene with no backup job or a plan. Just my savings and hope.
Things worked out eventually; I landed where I am now and experienced some quick promotions and gained more responsibility. It was one of those times the grass was actually greener on the other side.
4 work seasons later, and that grass is nearly dead.
Not only am I consistently mentally burnt out (which turns me into a cranky asshole at home), I’m fed up with the lack of support concerning my well-being that I’ve been [not]receiving. At first I hoped my manager would be able to see how I was giving my all during the busy season and using the off season to essentially replenish myself to do it all over again months later. I learned very quickly that was folly and decided to start advocating for myself. Expressing my fatigue out loud and when it made sense, I figured he would hear me and give me a break.
I’m in the second year of learning that that was a waste of my damn time.
It got me to thinking–when newer/younger employees come in to a position with longtime established management, employees and practices, how hard do they have to work to be heard and enact change? Once they’re heard, to what avail? If managers aren’t ready to shift into the future, in a world where stress and burnout are being classified as epidemics and medical conditions by the WHO and CDC, then can potential employees stand to take their talents elsewhere? The responsibility to pay back loans begins breathing down their necks the moment they walk across the stage and collect their diplomas, so when can they really have a moment to methodically plan out their next steps? Our society values hard work, once you can actually get in the door, but our society is also dominated by old white men who own the companies or manage the contracts we’re trying to work for who didn’t have nearly the same amount of hills to climb. How can we even grow, let alone thrive in our workplaces if we can’t even take a mental health day without feeling like we’re inconveniencing the mission? Man, fuck the mission! Organizations love to jump on the bandwagon of talking about mental health and its importance, but what are they doing to implement change and create environments where our mental health needs are being met? Why isn’t mental health treated like every other sickness?
I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve probably made myself sick just from my job stress alone. My body got tired of trying to maintain normalcy, of trying to push through and get the job done because if there’s anything that I valued, it was not being a burden on my bosses or coworkers and being able to carry my own weight. Even if at times the wiser thing for me to do was to ask for help. I’d allow myself to get to the point where my body gave me no choice and I was forced to do nothing BUT rest. That my friends, was the early stage of the burnout.
Once I defined what I was feeling, acknowledged that I was indeed tapped mentally and physically, it became incredibly important to set boundaries and to communicate my burnout. Never was it done for sympathy, or for someone to wish me better. It was to let them know that I wasn’t at 100% and that their respect of that was going to help me get better sooner rather than later. Some people seemed to hear me better than others, told me to let them know if I needed anything from them. And then others…others as in my manager told me to look forward to my upcoming vacation, to feel appreciative that I at least had the opportunity to get away from it all. All I heard at that point was that he figured once I returned I’d respond better to him when he’d disrespect my boundaries. He wanted me to go back to getting the work done without bogging him down with how it was making me feel mentally. I then realized that he wasn’t capable of caring because he couldn’t understand how instead of powering through mental fatigue just because I could, didn’t mean that I should.
I say my mental health isn’t a business trend because the current state of it is not something that’s going to go away. It’s not temporary and I’m seeking bettering myself every day. I’m not advocating for my boundaries to be respected because it’s the hot thing to do right now; it’s what I need to survive.
I don’t know if the perfect workplace that has a culture that respects these things exist, since you know, companies sure love their bottom line, but I know where I currently am isn’t it. It’s phony. It’s surface compassion with no legitimate action to actually implement the changes that could help a more vocal employee like me, and the less vocal ones, feel like taking breaks and taking care of themselves IS indeed key to insuring the business survives at the level it’s at.
It’s that simple.