The pace is hectic, the challenges are great, and you are feeling the fatigue of carrying the extra load. You work hard with excellence and efficiency to get ahead. Your manager is pleased and does not hesitate to pile it on. You get more than enough opportunities to show what you can do and you deliver. You are not the kind of person who complains, but it is beginning to take a toll. Now what do you do?
It is common for top performers end up with more work than their below average co-workers that ultimately can lead to fatigue and burnout. Are you are a top performer who finds yourself picking up the slack for under performing teammates?
Fatigue and burnout does not develop overnight. It is the result of bad decision making that leads to bad patterns. I thought I would take a stab and what a work pattern might look like that ends in fatigue.
Here are the general steps I witness starting with a new job or project and ending in total burnout.
- Beginning: It is a new day, new job, or new project. It is your fresh start with new hopes, dreams, and goals. Metaphorically speaking, it reminds you of your first day of school with a new notebook, pencil, and unused pink eraser. You jump right in feeling enthusiastic and optimistic as you anticipate the next moments.
- Positioning: You start the orientation stage. You get your new desk, new parking pass, and a new smart phone. The new project manager invites you to the project kick-off meeting where you introduce yourself and watch the positioning begin. You strategically set your pink eraser at the top of your notebook and sharpen your pencil.
- Performance: You find your place and begin producing. It does not take long to figure out who are the real contributors and who is simply doing time. You witness the differences in how people work and begin to align with those most like you. You put pencil to paper occasionally employing the pink eraser.
- Ascension: As you gain momentum in the new job or project, it become obvious who are the performers and who is just clocking time. You see opportunity to bring more value to the group and the cream begins to rise to the top. You begin to make a name for yourself. You are cranking along filling up your notebook. The pencil and pink eraser are good.
- Pride: Your success begins to feel good and more work comes your way. You are now the “go-to” person when things need to get done. You fight the urge to believe that you are critical to overall success. You kick it into high gear. Now you are spending more time sharpening your pencil and blasting through the pages. The pink eraser is a helpful tool.
- Fatigue: After a season, you begin to tire. You manager or team leader has drawn from your well so much that your personal life is impacted, you begin to feel embittered toward under performers, and you begin to feel unappreciated. You have set the standard high and you fear that lowering your performance may bring unwanted attention or cause you to lose favor with management. You have filled the notebook and worked your pencil to a stub. The pink eraser is a broken and black pencil rubs off on your fingers.
- Relief: Eventually, you begin to feel trapped and burned out. You start thinking about making a change with either your employer or your project. You need a fresh start. You start looking for a new notebook, pencil, and shiny new pink eraser.
Whether you are the boss, a manager, or simply use the tools, no one likes to be caught in a cycle of fatigue. Your cycle may look different than the one illustrated here. Either way, you have to read the signs regardless of your position in the organization.
This post begins a short series on fatigue and burnout. It is something that I hear a lot of complaints about. It is also something that many people feel powerless to battle. I hope you find the series helpful.
What are the steps in your fatigue cycle?