How Leaders Can Help Overworked Employees

August 23, 2022

Overview: Executive coaching teaches leaders to view themselves as servants of their employees. Emotionally intelligent leaders can spot signs of impending burnout and overwhelming workloads. To avoid overworking your employees, eliminate unnecessary work, plan, and offer recognition and praise when it’s due.

Leaders want employees and teams to be productive. If they expect too much of them and overwork them, they’ll get a burnt-out and less productive workforce while increasing turnover and sabotaging organizational goals. Maintaining the well-being, motivation, and engagement of employees is the intelligent leader’s top priority.

To be effective in this sense, leaders must spot the symptoms of workforce burnout. They must take steps to avoid and correct the burnout stemming from excessive work.

Intelligent Leaders Genuinely Care for Employees

Back in the days of rigid, vertical, organizational hierarchies, the well-being and happiness of employees did not matter to the heavy-handed, authoritarian leadership brass. Leadership coaching says that intelligent leaders are servant leaders. They understand that true leadership is not about them, but about others. They know happy employees are productive employees.

The Signs of Excessive Work

Employees feel overwhelmed with work for two reasons:

  • Your expectations are too high. Some of them may be able to deliver, but others may not.
  • They struggle with personal barriers that prevent them from achieving what you expect.

In both cases, attentive leaders will notice several signs pointing to the fact that employees are struggling to handle workloads. Executive coaching can endow leaders with the ability to read between the lines and spot subtle emotional clues of frustration and discontent.

  • Sudden drops in performance are unmistakable signs employees are caving under the pressure of work. People handle stress differently. Some speak up; others suffer in silence. Others just stop caring, allowing their performances to derail.
  • Increased absenteeism is also a sign that employees are resorting to various creative coping mechanisms to handle or escape overwhelming workloads. Calling in sick leads to more missed work, further increasing pressure on employees.
  • Working longer hours is how some employees try to catch up with work they cannot handle otherwise. While it may seem employees willing to put in long hours are more productive, the result of this temporary spike in productivity can be burnout.
  • Increasing employee turnover is never a good sign for an organization. Employees may decide to leave for several reasons, but when they can’t handle pressure or the amount of work, fleeing may seem like the only solution.
  • Negative emotions and comments are the results of stress and friction. When they feel overwhelmed, employees grow frustrated, irritable, or upset. Some will voice their feelings, stating they may never catch up on their to-do lists or telling someone they feel like they live at the office.
  • Blaming others for failures is another natural human reaction born of stress, frustration, and exhaustion. When employees blame each other for mistakes or missed deadlines, it’s time to reconsider their workloads.

What Can Leaders Do to Address Excessive Work? 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Leaders can avoid overwhelming employees by:

  • Planning ahead for periods of increased workloads. Whatever the cause of a workload surge, leaders have some forewarning and can take measures to alleviate impacts. At the very least, they can talk to employees and assure them the surge is temporary.
  • Eliminating unnecessary work. When the workforce is overstretched, caring leaders focus on streamlining their processes and eliminating everything that’s not necessary under the circumstances. Employees will notice and appreciate your efforts to lighten their workloads.
  • Recognizing efforts and offering praise when it’s due 
    clarifies your expectations and makes it clear you understand the implications of work surges.
You're great note.
Praise and recognition are warming and desirable.

If the damage is done, leaders must go into damage-control mode by doing the following:

  • Openly talking to employees about workloads
  • Providing additional resources and support
  • Reducing workloads
  • Redefining priorities

Responsible and intelligent leaders discourage workers from putting in extra hours. The cost of a temporary uptick in productivity is too steep to assume, as it results in burnout and overworked employees.

Contact us to learn more about how you can join the IL Movement as a coach or how you can benefit from partnering with us to bring IL Solutions to you and your organization.

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