June 15, 2022

7 Hidden Impacts Employee Burnout Has On Your Workforce

It’s no secret that employee disengagement is on the rise. Recent Gallup research found that only 34% of employees were engaged, and 16% said they were “actively disengaged in their work and workplace.” Yet, in a recent survey TCP Software conducted, 72% of respondents (managers) rate employee engagement at their organization as high.

This begs the question, why the disconnect? Did the Gallup poll have a wider reach across industries? Are our customers’ employees an anomaly and really are more engaged? We think it more likely shows a difference in how employees rate their engagement versus how managers and executives rate employee engagement at their organizations. Perhaps what employees tell their managers is different from what they feel comfortable saying in an anonymous survey?

Despite the rosy outlook, 33% of our survey respondents say high turnover rates are a problem at their organizations, and 65 percent say they have implemented employee engagement initiatives over the last 18 months. This shows that employee disengagement is on our respondents’ radar and is something they are actively trying to avoid.

One of the biggest reasons for employee disengagement is toxic work culture. Toxicity goes beyond the obvious such as bad or ineffective leaders and lack of growth opportunities. It includes the not-so-obvious practices such as expecting employees to respond to email outside of work hours and even attending Zoom meetings while on vacation. Having a policy against these practices mean anything if managers are not leading by example. If the boss is emailing at off-hours, employees feel it’s expected they do the same.

The 7 Hidden Impacts of Employee Burnout

Every organization understands that employee disengagement has severe negative impacts on the organization, such as employee retention and productivity. But what about the not-so-obvious consequences?

  1. Management Burnout: The emphasis is often on how managers can keep employees engaged, but what happens when the managers are burned out? Gallup says, “Managers are just as likely, if not slightly more so, to suffer frequent or constant burnout than individual contributors (26% of managers vs. 24% of individual contributors).” If your managers are suffering just as much or more than employees, how will they lead effectively?
  2. Escalating Issues: For companies who see burnout as an employee problem and one the employee needs to fix; you may miss the fact that the problem could be a difficult manager. If left uncovered, high turnover or worse outcomes could occur in the future.
  3. Disengagement Begets Disengagement: Burned-out employees take more sick days, which puts more stress on other employees as they pick up the slack leading to more disengaged employees. When you identify a disengaged employee, take steps to remedy the problem immediately. Today, it could be just one employee, but disengagement is contagious and often spreads throughout the company.
  4. Loss of Knowledge: When an employee leaves their job because they don’t feel engaged anymore, you also lose their accumulated knowledge. Much of that knowledge isn’t documented—it’s all the little things your employees know how to manage and the efficient processes they’ve developed.
  5. Decreased Collaboration: Collaboration often suffers when you have employees who are not engaged. They begin to withdraw and stop offering input and creative ideas that can lead to new processes, products and services.
  6. Morale Killer: Disengaged employees might work against you and actively try to cause harm to your business by doing the bare minimum and actively ruining morale. In these situations, it’s easy to blame the disruptive employee. Wise leaders take the time to consider if it’s an employee engagement problem and take steps to nip it in the bud.
  7. Safety Issues: While the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t address burnout specifically, it does say employers must provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards. We now understand that burnt-out employees have less awareness of their surroundings and have difficulty following safety protocols—the consequences of which include: misuse of heavy machinery, poor driving and delayed emergency response. This is dangerous for the employee suffering from burnout, and it can lead to workplace accidents that impact other employees.

Employee engagement is not a new concern, but it has become relevant to many companies following the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders are taking notice and beginning to understand it’s not simply an employee or HR problem; it’s an organizational problem that they must solve.

Yet, there is a bright side. Our survey found that these challenging times have encouraged companies to try new employee engagement strategies. Ninety-one percent of respondents working at organizations that implemented employee engagement initiatives feel those efforts have made a difference in employee morale and retention over the last 18 months.

For more information on burnout, engagement strategies, and HR technology’s impact on today’s organizations, we invite you to read our full report—Strategic Remedies for the Great Resignation.