Right now, I am again seeing a massive wave of burn-out taking place in the work place. People are overwhelmed and struggling. They are starting to question everything and feeling like they will never get caught up. This is especially true with e-mail.
Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009) note that this is very common when dealing with adaptive problems because “a significant element of the burnout is from trying to carry other people’s water - other people’s hopes, needs, expectations, and fears - trying to do it for them.”
From the first day we are on the job until the last day we retire, people are constantly loading us up with expectations and challenges. Some we can handle more than others but everyone, in the end, can become more than a bit toasty from the amount of work.
There are no simple solutions, but if you feel you are carrying too much of a specific person’s water or too much from multiple people, then it is time to stop and assess. What are the costs, risks, and long term damage that come from this action? Is there one thing today that you can start doing or stop doing which will help you with this situation, individual or group?
Right now, I believe more people need to stop and process what is happening in their life. They need to rethink how they are working and why they are working in this manner. Then, once they are clear about what is most important, it is time to develop strategies to give the work back to the people whose work it was suppose to be in the first place.
This week, carry your own water and help others to do the same. Burnout does not have to be inevitable.