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Where’s My Burnout Buddy?: New Study Finds a Quarter of the Workforce is Burned Out and Ignored

A new study by Crucial Learning, a learning company with courses in communication, performance, and leadership, reveals a quarter of the workforce is burned out. And when it comes to discussing and resolving that burnout, most employees feel ignored—only perpetuating the problem.

In a January 2022 poll of 1,110 people, 1 in 4 respondents admitted to being burned out and feeling tired, pessimistic, and disengaged from their work. Asked what concerns contributed most to their burnout, respondents’ top-rated frustrations were:

  • Lack of proper staffing
  • Too heavy of a workload
  • Societal and world issues
  • Lack of information or resources

The good news? We have coworkers who know how to help solve these issues. Three in five people concerned with proper staffing and a heavy workload know someone who can alleviate their concerns; 3 in 4 who are bogged down by a lack of information or resources know someone who can help as well.

The bad news? We can’t communicate well enough with these coworkers to get results. For example, almost half (46 percent) of respondents concerned about lack of proper staffing have been unable to fully express their feelings – and even after speaking up, only a paltry 7 percent have been able to resolve the problem. In fact, the concern “easiest” to resolve was having too heavy of a workload and, even then, only 9 percent say they were able to resolve that issue. Resolution of every other concern came in lower, with several under 5 percent. 

And yet, survey analysis found that for many issues, there is a clear correlation between speaking up and burnout—even if they don’t get fully resolved. Specifically, when discussing topics like physical or mental health, concerns with coworkers and managers, compensation, or lack of information and resources, people who voiced their concerns were less likely to show signs of disengagement, exhaustion, and pessimism. Ultimately, speaking up can be a powerful antidote to burnout and is the first step to resolving lingering concerns.

“People aren’t burned out because of the type of work they have,” said Joseph Grenny, coauthor of the new third edition of the national bestseller Crucial Conversations. “They’re worn down because they can’t have constructive dialogue with their teammates or leaders to get the support they need. Morale drops and organizational effectiveness craters when employees aren’t empowered to speak up and managers don’t have the skills to listen and respond to concerns.”

Simply listening to employees and helping them feel their opinion is valued opens the door to constructive conversations and, ultimately, resolutions. Grenny shares a few tips below to help you get started:

4 Tips for Strong Workplace Communication

  • Listen deeply. Before you can change culture, you need to know where you stand. The best way to do this isn’t with a safe, antiseptic survey administered by outsiders. The best way is for executives to vulnerably engage with the employees who know best. Pair up and meet with groups of 8 to 10 employees. Spend 60 to 90 minutes asking open-ended questions like, “What advice would you give a friend if they came to work here?” “What does it take to succeed here?” or “If you had a magic wand, what’s one thing you would change?”
  • Approach as a Friend, not a Foe. We live in a culture where speaking up is often seen as an attack. Avoid this misperception by welcoming feedback. For example, “I’d like to hear what you’re worried about so we can find a way for you to be successful and reach our team’s goals…”
  • Stick to the facts. Avoid broad conclusions such as, “you’re incompetent” or “you don’t work hard.” Instead, focus on specific incidents, events, and actions such as, “Your last three assignments were late. What can we do to help?”
  • Take action. Listening creates expectations. Once employees take a risk to share their perceptions, they begin watching to see if you’ve really listened. They’ll want to see evidence. Pick a couple of valued and visible concerns and address them quickly. This builds trust in your sincerity to make longer-term changes that may involve the employees themselves changing their behavior.

About Crucial Learning
Crucial Learning improves the world by helping people improve themselves. We offer courses in communication, performance, and leadership, focusing on behaviors that have a disproportionate impact on outcomes, called crucial skills. Our award-winning courses and accompanying bestselling books include Crucial Conversations® for Mastering Dialogue, Crucial Conversations® for Accountability, Influencer, The Power of Habit™, and Getting Things Done®.

CONTACT: Jordan Christiansen +1-801-995-5458,