18 questions to start the burnout conversation in the workplace

Burnout among healthcare professionals is continuing to climb, an issue that could stem from disconnects between workers and their organizations, according to an Oct. 7 article from Harvard Business Review. Knowing how to talk about burnout can help break down the stigmas around it, paving a path to recovery — but it's up to leaders to know how and when to start these conversations.

Christina Maslach, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at the University of California Berkeley, identified six leading causes of burnout. Harvard Business Review developed three questions that correspond with each cause to help leaders address burnout at the source. 

Harvard's 18 questions leaders should ask employees, listed beneath the cause of burnout each addresses: 

Unsustainable workload

  • How well are work priorities aligned with our strategy and expected results?
  • To which priorities or activities should we pay more attention? What should we deemphasize in order to do that?
  • How might we co-create an employee experience which would give you a more realistic and feasible workflow?

Perceived lack of control

  • To what extent do you feel that you have discretion over how you do your job and influence over decisions which affect you?
  • Where would more agency most benefit you?
  • How can we redesign the work experience to give you greater latitude in how you accomplish our work goals?

Insufficient rewards for effort

  • How often do you and your colleagues receive appropriate recognition for work well done?
  • What kinds of rewards and credit mean the most for you and your colleagues?
  • How might we work together to build a system which better acknowledges your and your colleagues' good work?

Lack of a supportive community

  • To what extent does our work community sustain and support you or, alternatively, drain your energy?
  • Are there areas where our community is especially strong? Where can it improve?
  • How can we work together to strengthen our community ties and connections?

Lack of fairness

  • How fairly are you and your colleagues treated?
  • To what extent do factors other than accomplishment and effort influence recognition and reward?
  • How might we work together to make our company fairer?

Mismatched values and skills

  • To what extent do the team's values align with yours? Where do they deviate?
  • How well do the company's actions sync up with its own stated values? How well do the team's actions do the same?
  • How can we work together to ensure that your values and the company's align?

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