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3 Signs of Burnout, and One Way to Beat It

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Work smarter! Helpful advice on how to be your most productive, successfull self. 

As a manager, you know that local government is a demanding and stressful profession, and occasionally this stress can be beyond overwhelming – causing “burnout syndrome” – that is fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficiency that comes with work-related stress.

Recognizing the cause of your burnout (e.g., lack of control, uncertainty, workload, workplace dynamics) is as important as understanding the symptoms. Here are three signs of burnout from Psychology Today, their symptoms, and how to beat it.

1. Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion

  • Fatigue, physical depletion, exhaustion
  • Back pain
  • Sleep difficulties (e.g., insomnia, nightmares)
  • Headaches
  • Cold and flu
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Irritability

2. Signs of cynicism and detachment

  • Callousness
  • Pessimism
  • Defensiveness
  • Intolerance
  • Desire to escape from people or avoid going to work

3. Signs of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

  • Lack of commitment to the profession
  • Reduce expectations
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of confidence regarding personal ineffectiveness or accomplishments

If you are experiencing any of the above signs and/or symptoms, one way to beat it is to build and maintain personal and professional support networks. Support networks made up of family, friends, and professional associates can reinforce other stress-management strategies. The Effective Local Government Manager recommends:

  • Having close confidants who can help you assess a stressful situation and design a control strategy to deal with the source, who can provide honest and trusted advice as well as encourage and perhaps participate with the manager in an exercise or health maintenance program.
  • A support network of individuals who understand at least part of the pressures you face and who have your interests at heart.
  • Trusted department heads or other work associates – especially those whose mutual interests and personalities bind you in a friendship extending beyond their occupational ties.
  • Someone who offers unconditional support, a sympathetic ear, and ideally, an unshakable emotional foundation.
  • Colleagues who hold similar positions in other communities. They can offer camaraderie at professional association events and expert advice on difficult or sensitive issues.
  • Personal friends who have no occupational ties can offer diversion, relief from daily pressures, and an outsider’s view of troublesome matters.

ICMA has helped develop and maintain a series of professional support networks available to local government managers – including state and local government management associations. Click here to find out more.

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