managemnet company strategy managemanet More Than 50% of Managers Feel Burned Out

More Than 50% of Managers Feel Burned Out

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According to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index – a global survey of workers in several industries and companies published in September 2022 – more than half of managers (53%) report feeling burned out at work. This statistic is staggering, and slightly higher than employees in general. However, this is not surprising. Managers must guide their employees through a pandemic and its aftermath, facing situations that require them to lead with empathy while managing growing demands with fewer resources – all while received little recognition for their efforts. This irreversible situation leaves many managers struggling.

To transform the energy against burnout in organizations, it is important for leadership and HR to understand and measure the components of burnout so that managers can better address them. Listening to managers is one of the ways to recognize the warning signs. Microsoft’s early work to learn about burnout among our own managers highlights some areas that organizations can focus on as they begin this important work.

How Managers Experience Burnout

Christina Maslach, a pioneer in burnout research, says that burnout is the result of continuously experiencing stress at work, resulting in fatigue, ridicule, and a perceived lack of professional success. The reasons that these symptoms arise fall into six buckets: there is unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, inadequate rewards for effort, lack of a supportive community, lack of equity, and mismatched values ​​and skills.

Today’s managers are exhausted from a combination of high workloads and limited resources. While all employees can relate to this challenge, managers have the added responsibility of making sure their team members get what they need to succeed, in addition to doing their own work. Some of these demands may have changed and expanded since the pandemic, as employees are looking for more meaning in their work and to better understand their purpose.

As managers adjust and help their teams adapt to a post-pandemic workplace, they need feedback and support more than ever. Yet based on our research they report receiving little coaching and development for their people management skills, and little recognition from their own managers. These factors can lead managers to feel they lack the ability to make an impact in their current roles, let alone achieve their future career goals.

Solving burnout starts with understanding these signals in managers and then identifying actions you can take. At Microsoft, our internal, biannual census focuses specifically on the concept of Successfully and how we can help people feel energized and empowered to do meaningful work. To define burnout as part of this scale, our research digs into Maslach’s three dimensions of exhaustion, ridicule, and sense of accomplishment. While our findings are not necessarily applicable to all companies, we believe they highlight some important signals that may be widespread among managers in other organizations.

For example, we found that managers are more likely than individual contributors to experience burnout and a lack of professional efficacy. We also found managers who supervise individual contributors (i.e., front-line managers) are more likely to experience violence than managers who supervise other managers (i.e., middle managers ). As managers move up in the organization and as the size of their roles increases, they feel more meaning and power from their work which helps reduce cynicism.

Not surprisingly, we know that experiencing burnout can lead to negative consequences for the manager and the company, such as reduced productivity and turnover. For example, while self-reported productivity tended to be lower among managers who experienced any one dimension of burnout, it was an average of 22 points lower for managers who experienced all of the three dimensions of burnout.

When we looked at voluntary attrition, we discovered that managers who experienced burnout were 1.8 times more likely to leave the company compared to managers who did not experience it. For managers who experience cynicism, it increases 3.0 times, and those with a lack of professional efficiency are 3.4 times more likely to leave the company. If a manager experiences all three dimensions, they are 5.3 times more likely to leave the company compared to a manager who does not.

Reducing Manager Burnout

While managers have a role to play in mitigating burnout in their teams, their own levels of burnout are equally important. Levers that we have found in our research to help with burnout include the following:


Finding ways to connect front-line managers’ work with what’s important to them can help buffer the potential negative effects of burnout. Managers need to reflect on their roles and have an open conversation with their leader about what gives them energy and meaning at work, and what detracts from it. In one example from our research, managers who experienced true burnout scored a staggering 46 points lower on feeling that their work was using their skills and abilities.

Learning and career development

Managers and their leaders should also consider new projects that can energize the workforce, have open conversations about what it takes to accomplish their goals, and be transparent about potential company career path. In addition, the manager’s leader must find and combine multiple sources of feedback to get a complete picture of the manager and help target where they need to grow.

Flexible work

Continuing to support flexible work can also give managers a sense of empowerment in their schedule and help reduce feelings of burnout. Managers who experience true burnout score 35 points lower in feeling supported to work in the way that works best for them. A key here is to collectively establish team rules and expectations around work schedules so that people can work in the way that works best for them without worrying about how their preferences will impact -flexible with others. At Microsoft, we provide manager workshops on how to create effective team agreements.

Psychological safety and support

In our research, managers who experience burnout are uncomfortable speaking up. In fact, when Microsoft managers experienced true burnout, they scored 34 points lower on the sentiment “I feel safe speaking up at work” than those who did not experience burnout. And they say that their own managers do not support them in prioritizing impactful projects and tasks: managers who experience burnout rate their leader’s support in this area 30 points more lower than managers who did not experience burnout.

As a manager, don’t feel like you have to hide the fact that you need help too. Prepare for your one-on-one with your leader and share your prioritization ideas with them to get their support. Speaking in a productive way with recommendations and solutions gives room for active dialogue and healthy conversation. As a leader, it is important to be a role model in admitting your own mistakes and normalized showing weaknessactively invite input from your team, and respond productively of the feedback you receive. This will help build psychological safety in your team and your managers.

Self care

Empowerment is also important managers to take care of themselves, or “put their own oxygen masks on first,” before focusing on their teams. When managers put themselves first, it’s just not models of correct behavior, but it also allows them to be more present for their employees. At Microsoft, we hold training sessions for managers to learn how to practice self-care and recharge throughout the day. We also provide quick guides on how to set boundaries and respect others’ boundaries, and guidelines for having these discussions with your teams. To a manager learned these skills on their ownthey have an easier time encouraging their employees to do the same.

In order for managers to improve, organizations must commit to continuously listening to them, acting on feedback, and measuring progress. Examining the three burnout dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy is key to understanding the burnout landscape and determining actions that will improve each dimension. The more managers feel that they can have an open dialogue with their employers, the richer the feedback loop becomes as the work organizations go towards countering the tide of burnout and creating a work environment where all energy is sustainable.

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