Beating Burnout - Saving Stars from Supernova
A few years ago, I had an amazing opportunity drop in my lap. One of the big national property management staffing companies took an interest in me and asked me to come on board with them and open their new Seattle office. I'm always up for a new challenge, and I liked the pace and feeling of the company,so I jumped in with both feet. While I was doing the job, I thought everything was totally normal. Because I was meeting great success, I processed it as perfectly acceptable to have ulcers, to work 16 hours a day, 7days a week, to drop everything when my phone rang, and to bite off the heads of my friends and family whenever I felt like it. I didn't actually process that I was drowning in stress until everyone starting asking me if I was stressed out.
"No, I'm fine! I just really like my job," I'd tell them. I would then give them my happy smile and say, "I'm really committed to my clients and customer service, that's all," and then I'd watch them roll their eyes. I knew I was fine. I was making excellent profits for the company, and I knew that it was perfectly normal not to be able to sleep 2or 3 days of the week. After all, they were paying me to worry about my numbers falling or my clients changing to a different company. I felt I was being paid to deal with feeling bad.
I was in too deep to see my own stress and completely out of control in my professional life. By the time I finally figured out how much stress I was under, I had already began to subconsciously hate my job. I had supernovaed off the bat for the company and found that I had to keep working harder and harder to hit the bars that I set for myself in the first 6 months of work. Coming out of the gate, burning as bright as I could, I never learned how to turn down the fuel on the fire to find a balance,and pretty soon that fuel ran out, and I burned out and crashed. BOOM.
Because property management is full of employees who are high energy, high production personalities, this kind of job experience isn't uncommon. I've seen it happen in property managers, leasing consultants, trainers, regionals, as well as to all the folks on the maintenance side of the job. We come in, and we amaze the people around us right off the bat, so we push ourselves just a smidge harder, and they're amazed again. Then we break out the big guns and kick it in to overdrive because we want to be the best, and no one can keep up with us. We are the golden child of property management.
One of two things happen. Either we can't keep up with the overdrive speed for long periods of time after our superiors have already come to expect it as normal production speed, OR someone just like us is hired, and since they've not been in overdrive for 4 months, they can do more than we can. Either way, we lose our golden child status. And it's devastating to us, so we burn out, stop trying, and say, "screw it," as we fall out of love with our job.
Supernova employees can make a great long term investment for a company because they have a lot of the qualities that we always tell people to look for in a good hire, and when the chips are down, these people will come through for you. The catch is that you have to pair them with a worker who models constancy and knows how to hold back someone just enough to keep them from bursting. So what do we do to keep ourselves and those supernova prone folks around us from exploding?
First, slow down. I know it's cliché but it really is a marathon, not a sprint. Outside of the world of music, no one ever went from number 99 to number 1 overnight, so try to settle yourself in for the long haul. Remember, when they hired you, it was for your potential, but not just for your potential in the next 5 days.
Second, if you're a manager over a potential supernova, help them learn the classic skill of time management. Novas rarely realize how long something will take, as they can't estimate project time very well, and if you can teach them this skill, they will be less likely to overload and blow.
Third, supernova candidates have to learn to applaud themselves. Part of the reason that they are pushing themselves so hard is because they are thriving on external praise and kudos. Sometimes it's because they never learned how to self motivate, and other times it stems from self esteem issues.