How can professionals avoid burnout?

John Hilton

Rule number one for avoiding HR burnout is to manage your own energy levels in terms of what you take on and what you do on behalf of other people, according to people management specialist Karen Gately.

“We can invest a lot of emotional energy getting caught up in other people’s problems, concerns and challenges,” Gately told HRD.

“That can obviously undermine our health, strength and spirit over time.”

Gately said it's also important to understand that HR professionals can have a lot of different challenges coming at them at once.

“All of a sudden every man and his dog is up in arms about something and challenges come along which means the peaks and troughs can be really difficult to manage,” she said.

“So that takes a lot of personal discipline and structured approaches to the way that we manage our day.

"Sometimes getting on top of busyness is as much about choosing what not to do as it is about what to do.”

Gately said it’s important to learn to say no, to leave managers jobs with them, coach them, help them to get things done, but to not do everything yourself.

“You can’t get between the employee and the manager anyway to be effective, so create capacity in your world by getting people to go and solve their own problems for themselves and advise them on how to do that.”

Gately added that burnout generally is a significant issue in society and it is certainly true with HR, but there is a huge emotional cost when they’re people that care.

“Sometimes we are doing things like making people redundant or terminating their employment, and even though that’s a fair decision it can still be very taxing and draining,” she said.

“People like to blame HR if things didn’t work out for them in their employment, especially if they are not ready to take accountability for themselves."

Gately added that HR operates in a difficult world where it can be hard to please everybody.

“So again that overtime can cause burnout and sometimes can lead to health issues like depression, anxiety, etc, but it can also lead to empathy fatigue where you just get to a point where it’s like ‘I just don’t have it in me to care anymore’," she said.

“When I know I’m burning out that’s when I need to create space for me to get back on top of my energy levels.”

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