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Screw ‘just checking in’—this is what we really need to cure burnout

0 2 years ago

Several years ago, I realized a startling truth: I was officially burned out.

“How are you?” my boss asked.

It was a question she asked every morning, likely out of habit more than anything else since she rarely looked up from her keyboard when she said it.

Usually, I’d pipe in with, “I’m fine,” or, “Pretty good. Thanks for asking,” but on this day, when I opened my mouth to speak, nothing came out.

Instead, I burst into tears.

I’d been conditioned to show unwavering strength at work, hold it together at all costs and never let anyone see me sweat, particularly as a woman of color.

But I’d been drowning in a tailspin of overwhelm for so long that I finally reached my breaking point. Everyday, my inner dialogue was a jumbled mix of:

How am I going to tackle three new projects this week when I haven’t finished the five from last week?

Did my daughter remember her shoes for gym class?

Will I need to work late again?

What’s for dinner tonight?

When’s the last time my husband and I had a date night?

What day is it?

The weight of it all was just too much to carry.

Across industries, burnout is prevalent. In a recent study of U.S. professionals, 77% of respondents said they have experienced employee burnout at their current job. Add the pressure of managing a personal life to the mix and the result can be devastating.

Devastated was certainly what I felt that day. Fresh out of options, I threw caution to the wind and shared with my boss what I’d been feeling. We didn’t come up with any real solutions, but I felt a bit of relief, just getting it off my chest.

But the relief was short-lived.

The following week, a coworker told me my boss had shared our conversation with him in detail, telling him how upset I was and repeating direct quotes from what I’d said. What’s more, he said he wasn’t the only person she’d told.


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