The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

242: The Causes & Treatment of Burnout with Jennifer Moss, Award-Winning Happiness Expert

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Jennifer Moss

Burnout is the result of occupational stress left unmanaged, marked by high levels of exhaustion and depletion, emotional distance from our job, and cynicism. With the macro and micro stressors of the past two years, it’s no surprise that burnout is on the rise. Although self-care strategies can be part of burnout treatment, we have to acknowledge where the systems around us are broken.

Podcast guest, Jennifer Moss, is author of The Burnout Epidemic, released in 2021. Moss was on the Global Happiness Council—a small group of leading scientists and economists that support the UN’s sustainable goals related to global well-being and the Annual Global Happiness Policy Report. She was named a Canadian Innovator of the Year, an International Female Entrepreneur of the Year, and recipient of the Public Service Award from the Office of President Obama. 

In this episode, we level set on what burnout is, how it progresses and some of its causes. We talk about how some organizational systems are broken and how they contribute to burnout. Then we get into some culture talk, small steps, and the role of job passion in burnout. Jennifer leaves us with many tangible tips to deal with burnout – both organizationally and personally.

Episode Highlights:
  • Burnout is a workplace phenomenon marked by high levels of exhaustion and depletion, emotional distance from our job, and cynicism. It can be confused with depression and anxiety – these can be symptoms of burnout.
  • When we have micro stressors adding up over time, we have setpoints where we keep rebounding. But after about 18 months to 2 years of being in that unstainable situation, we hit the wall. It takes people that same time to recover from burnout.
  • Sweden is the only place that treats burnout as a medical syndrome.
  • Broken cultures are normalized and celebrated – these contribute to burnout. Tech and healthcare are two of the sectors mentioned.
  • Cultures thrive in the small stuff. Organizations can create little, thoughtful ways that grow or create a contagion effect where bad behavior is not tolerated.
  • How do leaders develop empathy when they are burnout themselves? Empathy is a difficult trait to develop when it’s not innate in you. Leaders don’t have to take on everyone’s stressors – they can be vulnerable themselves. Showing empathy can result in more job satisfaction, self-reported wellbeing, and reaching goals (productivity). 
  • The relationship between finding purpose/meaning in your work and burnout. Harmonious passion is helpful to burnout but can go too far and turn into obsessive passion. 
  • Do you have something in your life other than your job? Two hours of leisure time to improve happiness set points – work isn’t the only thing in your life.
  • Jennifer’s burnout experience being a female tech founder. It took her 4-5 months to recover, and she had to rebuild relationships.
  • When we experience burnout, there is shame of feeling like a failure. This keeps us from identifying and labeling burnout. 
  • How do we recognize the signs of burnout before we fall of the cliff? Feeling hopeless is a big sign to watch for. Do we need stimulants to stay awake and downers to relax? Are we not spending time with friends or people bring us joy? Are we skimping on self-care or even hygiene? There’s only work and everything else is slipping away.
  • We misdiagnose people as underperformers when they are actually burned out.
  • There’s no right way to feel right now.
Links Mentioned:

The Burnout Epidemic 

Jennifer-moss.com

Full Bio:

Jennifer Moss is a Harvard Business Review contributor and nationally syndicated radio columnist. She was on the Global Happiness Council—a small group of leading scientists and economists that support the UN’s sustainable goals related to global well-being and the Annual Global Happiness Policy Report. Prior to this, Moss worked in Silicon Valley, eventually joining Barack Obama’s California social team during his historic presidential campaign.

To acknowledge her contributions to business and public service, Moss was named a Canadian Innovator of the Year, an International Female Entrepreneur of the Year, and recipient of the Public Service Award from the Office of President Obama. Her new book, The Burnout Epidemic, published by Harvard Business Press, launched September 28, 2021.

Follow Jennifer on social media:

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