Identify Tech Leader Burnout And Thrive Post-Pandemic

Repost of article originally written for Forbes Coaches Counsel and published here

Exhausted businessman sitting at desk in office at night

The tech ecosystem is now seeing the deleterious, cumulative effect of the pandemic upon employee performance, health and well-being. Virtually no aspect of how people live and work has gone unscathed. Those who’ve managed to avoid job losses are encountering unprecedented levels of pressure and stress in work climates rife with pandemic-related organizational disruptions. Even those who’ve financially benefited from a tech industry windfall may suffer identity confusion and social disconnection in light of the changes that significant monetary gains can bring. After over a year of living under the influence of a pandemic, many have lost sight of how to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout, enlist appropriate professional care in support of health and well-being and prioritize self-care.

While working as an executive leadership coach and corporate trainer over the past year, I’ve witnessed expansive upheaval across my tech clients’ lives. I’ve seen young, once-healthy people develop repetitive stress injuries and chronic pain, and a stress-related stroke that halted a founder’s hyper-growth startup. In other cases, once highly driven individuals abandon high-pressure roles to live scaled-down lifestyles abroad in third-world countries, finally finding time to attend virtual 12-step meetings for substance addiction. When some came into substantial financial gain following an acquisition or IPO, they grappled with the strain it caused, disrupting relationships and dismantling structure in their lives. While these may be some of the more extreme cases, people need not wait to experience life-altering consequences before addressing burnout and taking steps to regain and protect their health and wellness. 

Recognize The Signs And Symptoms Of Burnout

Generally optimistic about career fit and progression, motivated to contribute to individual and group objectives, capable of estimating scope of work, consistent performance in the general functions of your role, recognizing growth in self and others, engaging in mentorship, positively contributing to work culture, investing in communicating up and down and across levels of organizational seniority, able to return to prior functioning subsequent to setbacks, enlisting others for support when needed. Generally able to maintain healthy eating/sleeping/exercise practices; enjoying recreational activities and engaging in fulfilling personal relationships.

Surviving Burnout

Easily irritated by everyday work demands, recurring fear of failure in self and/or others’ performance, frequently overwhelmed by tasks that were once manageable, diminished concentration for routine operations, inadequate energy for learning or spearheading new objectives, habitual lateness and/or absenteeism in the general functions of your role, avoiding openly communicating, struggling to offer or receive constructive feedback or support from others, uncertain about professional next steps, decreased attention, increased effort or inability to maintain healthy eating/sleeping/exercise habits, difficulty maintaining personal relationships, chronic feelings of guilt over missed social engagements and reduced ability to enjoy recreational activities.

In Crisis

No longer able to perform in expected capacities of your role, chronically withdrawn, overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable, hypervigilant and/or paranoid without cause, anxious and/or sad with uncontrollable worry, frequently tearful or angry, preoccupied with personal ineffectiveness, cynical or hostile attitude, detached or withdrawn from professional and personal relationships, incommunicative, erratic mood swings, loss of identity in one or more major area of life, thoughts of self-harm or harm to others. Chronically disturbed eating/sleeping habits, reliance and/or abuse of alcohol or recreational substances to manage mood, stress-related physical symptoms coupled with resistance to seeking medical/professional attention and/or adopting changes made in treatment recommendations. Disconnected or severed interpersonal relationships and social isolation; experiencing apathy toward previously enjoyed recreational activities.

Enlist Appropriate Professional Care In Support Of Health And Wellness

Whenever someone is surviving burnout or in crisis, it is critical to seek out immediate medical attention and enlist appropriate levels of professional support. Obtain assessments from primary care physicians, medical specialists and licensed mental health professionals in your area with the capacity for ongoing treatment. Without adopting well-suited levels of assessment and treatment from trained experts, the risk of serious health failure and damage to one’s professional track record runs high. The hallmark features of burnout and ensuing health consequences, and the bigger implications these may have on everyday life, must take priority. 

Prioritize Self-Care And Thrive

Once health and wellness have returned to baseline, consider investing in executive and/or personal coaching to implement a curated self-care and professional development plan that reflects your life vision, priorities and values (registration required).

Determine how the mindsets and motivational tools, relationships, health habits and social structures in your life contribute to and deter from your goals. With health and career sustainability in mind, consider how to optimize your strengths and existing skill set, identify potential avenues for growth and learning in order to thrive and build alignment across all areas of your life. Determine if your organization provides a learning and development budget for you and consider how to best utilize it as a resource to support your plans. Connect with employee resource groups (ERGs) for additional support and mentorship as well as professional communities in your industry.

Lastly, keep a close pulse on your day-to-day mindset, and pay attention to the choices and patterns that either sustain you or drain you of energy. Thriving takes effort to maintain, so be sure you are enlisting the right level of support and resources.