Published February 5, 2024

Estimated read time: 5 minutes


Burnout in Middle Management

What is a burnout?

Burnout is a serious issue that can affect individuals in various industries and positions and hence, understanding the nature of burnout is crucial for preventing it.  According to Maslach who is an American social psychologist and Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of burnout. They are:

• Exhaustion: Feeling overextended, both emotionally and physically.

• Cynicism: Taking a cold, cynical attitude toward responsibilities.

• Ineffectiveness: Feel a growing sense of inadequacy, by feeling ineffective.

Burnout among the Middle Management 

One group that is particularly susceptible to burnout is the middle management. Middle managers are tasked with overseeing teams, managing projects, and communicating with senior leadership. They are also often pulled in different directions, which can make it challenging to balance their responsibilities. 

According to survey results by Ceridian, a global leader in human capital management (HCM) technology, 90% of employee respondents said they felt stuck at their role over the past year and 33% of them have been feeling that way often or always. 

Moreover, Ceridian reports that only 52% of today’s surveyed workforce felt committed to staying with their current employer for at least three to five years.

Causes for Burnout

1. High Workloads

One of the main causes of burnout in middle management is high workloads. Middle managers are often responsible for managing a large number of employees, overseeing multiple projects, and communicating with senior leadership. When these responsibilities become too much to handle, it can lead to feelings of burnout. Middle managers may also feel overwhelmed and stressed, which can impact their productivity and well-being.

Job stress is among the main work-related problems according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and Mexico is ranked first in the world, with 75% of its workers suffering from stress, followed by China and the United States, with 73% and 59%, respectively.

Moreover, according to the Health and Safety Executive, in the United Kingdom, 40% of work-related illness is related to stress and according to the American Psychological Association in the United States, 40% of all professionals state that their job is very or extremely stressful.

2. Lack of Support

Middle managers are often caught between senior leadership and frontline employees. They are responsible for communicating the needs of both parties, which can be challenging. When middle managers do not receive adequate support from either group, it can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration. They may feel as though they are not valued or appreciated, which can contribute to burnout.

3. Pressure to Meet Targets

Another cause of burnout in middle management is the pressure to meet targets. Middle managers are often responsible for meeting key performance indicators (KPIs) and other targets. When these goals are unrealistic or too demanding, it can lead to burnout. Middle managers may feel as though they are not able to meet expectations, which can impact their self-esteem and well-being.

4. Poor Work-Life Balance

Middle managers often work long hours, which can impact their ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. They may be required to work overtime, attend meetings outside of normal working hours, and respond to emails and phone calls outside of work hours. This can lead to fatigue and burnout over time. Middle managers may feel as though they do not have enough time to devote to their personal lives, which can impact their mental health and well-being.

5. Lack of Autonomy

Middle managers may feel as though they have limited control over their work. They may be required to seek approval from senior leadership for important decisions, which can be frustrating. When middle managers do not feel as though they have enough autonomy, it can impact their motivation and well-being.

6. Inadequate Recognition

Middle managers may feel undervalued or unappreciated for their contributions. When they do not receive adequate recognition, it can lead to feelings of burnout and disengagement. 

How to prevent yourself from burnouts?

Coaching can be an effective tool in preventing burnout, as it can help individuals identify and address the underlying causes of their stress and exhaustion. Through coaching, individuals can gain a better understanding of their values, strengths, and limitations, and learn strategies for managing their workload, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care. 

A coach can also provide support and accountability, helping individuals stay on track with their goals and provide  guidance and encouragement when faced with challenges. Moreover, employees can discuss and build a career plan with the help of their coach. 

According to a survey done by Ceridian, 84% of the employee respondents who had a clear career path said it makes them more committed to their employers.

In addition,  by working with a coach, individuals can develop a deeper sense of self-awareness and learn to recognize the early warning signs of burnout, enabling them to take proactive steps to prevent it before it becomes a more serious issue. 

Conclusion 

To sum it up, burnout is a serious issue that can impact middle managers in various ways. Studies have shown that burnout leads to less job satisfaction, confusion at work and exhaustion. The leading causes of burnout in middle management include high workloads, lack of support, pressure to meet targets, poor work-life balance, lack of autonomy, and inadequate recognition. It is important for organizations to address these factors and support the well-being of their middle managers and one of the ways they can do so is by introducing employees to professional coaching. Accordingly, this can encourage a positive workplace culture and avoid burnout.

References:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330338619_Burnout_and_its_Organizational_Effects_A_Study_on_Literature_Review 

https://www.ceridian.com/ca/company/newsroom/2022/pulse-of-talent-report-workers-crave-flexibility-at-work-and-in-career-path 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214782914000177#bb0160