Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 10, 2009


Hello everybody.

"And the beat goes on........................"


During these stressful times, more and more of us are likely to feel the pressures mount and begin to burn-out. Those kinds of feelings can strike all arts administrators, whether new hires or seasoned vetern leaders. We need to first recognize the signs, then take pro-active steps to cope with the syndrome. Leaders need to know that burn-out is common, and how they can help their staffs to successfully combat its negative repercussions.

Here is a simple test to help determine if you are near or experiencing some kind of burn-out.

1. Are you feeling over tired and drained of energy?
2. Are you getting easily annoyed and irritated with small problems?
3. Are you less sympathetic or empathetic to others around you?
4. Is what you say increasingly misunderstood or misinterpreted by those your work with?
5. Are you increasingly feeling frustrated in trying to reach reasonable goals at work?
6. Do you think you are achieving less than you are expected to on the job?
7. Do you feel organizational politics in your organization has gotten out of hand and is making it harder for you to do a good job?
8. Do you sometimes dread coming into the office in the morning? Are you watching the clock in the afternoon?
9. Do you feel increasingly disorganized?
10. Do you daydream more during work hours than you use to?

Score yourself on a 1 to 5 scale for each question, with 1 being that you rarely, if ever, feel this way, and 5 being that you now feel this way most, if not all, of the time. The nearer your total is to 50, the more in danger you are of serious burnout.

What can you do to avoid and / or recover from burnout?

1. Identify what you think are the likely causes of your feeling stressed or unhappy on the job. Write them down over the course of a week if you have to. Just knowing what specific kinds of things are increasing your stress levels can help you cope with them. The more you understand what is making you feel like you are ‘burning-out’ the easier it will be to eliminate some of the negatives. Understand that you aren’t likely alone in feeling burnout on the horizon. Talk about what you are experiencing, not as a way to whine or complain, but as a rational approach to dealing with what are the root causes.

2. Recapture your time. Learn how to say ‘no’ to demands put on you that interfere with your productivity and stress-free environment. Prioritize what you need to get done and cut the rest back. Time is a precious resource – don’t spend too much of it on low-yield work that nets little results. Get more sleep, more exercise and take more time for yourself – even if just a few minutes here and there. Discover what you consider to be a reasonable work / home balance point, then rigorously defend that point. If you need to take a day off, do it. If you think you are in serious burn out, move your vacation up. Talk to your supervisor(s) and explain that you need to cut back in order to stay an effective team member. Take a deep breath and step back during the course of the day and when negatives arise, ask yourself: “Is this really a big deal? “ Don’t be hesitant to point out where the organization is losing it focus on what is important. It’s easy during difficult times for organizations to sometimes get involved in projects and tasks that are impossibly burdensome and unlikely to succeed. Sanity may ultimately depend on recognition of where energy is misplaced.

3. Conscientiously think more about how to manage your workplace environment and your relationship to co-workers and colleagues so as to avoid some of the negative pitfalls of office politics. Increase the time you spend with your positive support network. Don’t let people depend too heavily on you for too much. Manage those kinds of relationships. Distance from co-workers is both a cause of burnout and a defense against it. Spend at least part of each day thinking about how things are going for your co-workers? Are they burning out? Do they need some support? Empathy with others is essential to feeling more in control yourself.

4. Think about what parts of your job give it special meaning to you, then spend at least part of your time involved in those activities so you can maintain your level of passion and commitment. Spending all of your time dealing with the negatives on your plate breeds frustration, hostility and hopelessness. You need to spend some time doing tasks that you know are effective and which you enjoy. If your job description has become part of the problem, see if it is possible to have someone else within the organization help with some of the more stressful components - at least temporarily. Help can make the job easier and less stressful. If all of your job description is confronting challenges that leave you empty, you need to change that job description in some way.

5. Remind yourself about the good things that attracted you to your job in the first place. Try to gain a little perspective by standing back a little from time to time to appreciate that all the unreasonably burdensome challenges you currently face are likely cyclical – and that, in time, things are likely to get better.

NOTE TO SENIOR STAFF AND HEADS OF ORGANIZATIONS: The single most important thing to do in the face of actual, or potential, burnout is to address the issue head on and not ignore it. It isn’t likely to just go away by itself, but with a little conscious effort, you can effectively deal with it. If you are a senior manager, or Executive Director of your organization, try to remember that any number of the people on your staff may be dealing with some degree of job dissatisfaction and burn-out, and try to acknowledge that this reality is normal. You need to support your staff in identifying burn-out, its root causes, and some of the ways that your people can effectively cope with it. Bring the topic up at staff meetings, or with department heads or individual employees – and empower everyone to frankly and forthrightly accept that in these very difficult and challenging times (when programs and services are being cut, and staff laid off) burn-out is common and it is ok to acknowledge it. The more open you are in dealing with it, the less of a problem it will be for your organization. Please don’t assume it isn’t an issue for your people, just because no one is complaining about it openly.

Good luck.

Have a great week. Hope it was a Happy Mother’s Day for all.

And remember: Don’t Quit.