Menefee: Recognizing—and Heading off—Burnout

Oct. 16, 2023
As shop owners or managers, we need to be able to tell when we are holding our shop or employees back because we have not learned self-care. And knowing is half the battle.

What do you do when you're burned out? Does that mean your employees are feeling burned out, also? How do you even spot burnout in your employees? Those are serious questions to contemplate, because how you handle burnout for you and your employees will have lasting effects on your shop. It’s also a question that doesn’t have one right answer, if there is even a right answer. It’s also an answer that will be individual to yourself and to each employee.

Going into the fourth quarter, I have definitely been feeling burned out. Should I have gotten to the point where I feel this way? The answer is “no,” but here we are. Between managing a shop, dealing with the finances, dealing with employees, dealing with insurance companies, and then adding a personal life into the mix, it can be a lot for anyone, even if you are a seasoned shop owner or manager. I know I had lofty goals this year for my shop in wanting to hit certain metrics. I’ve changed a lot of things in my shop, along with a new bonus program, a retention program and a four-day-a-week, 10-hour-workday schedule. I also started doing some much needed upgrades in my shop and trying to expand into another building. So, I have definitely been feeling burned out lately.

Personally, for myself the only way I have been maintaining a slight hold on things and not spiraling into total burnout has been to take time and get a massage every Sunday. Then I come home, and all Sunday afternoon I do nothing that relates to any type of work that makes money. Sometimes, that means I lie on the couch for five hours reading a book, but it’s the only way I’m able to get up on Monday and put in another 60+ hour week for everything I have going on. That’s what works for me, and you have to find what works for you. Recently, I was able to get away for a long weekend where I did not think about work at all. And that’s when I realized how long I have just been running on fumes. This got me thinking about my own self-care and how it is probably affecting my shop. If I am not at my best or even halfway my best, then how can I be making good decisions and help my shop grow? Or have I become a detriment to my shop? It’s a question I’ve given serious thought.

Am I going to be able to change anything soon? Probably not. I have a lot going on. But being able to step back and recognize that I may be holding my shop back because I am feeling burned out is a very important step. As shop owners or managers, we need to be able to tell when we are holding our shop or employees back because we have not learned to handle self-care. Knowing is half the battle.

The topic really got me thinking about when, not if, my employees will feel burned out. And how do I recognize that and help to curb it? I think that is an even a harder question to ask because each employee is different and what you may be able to easily spot in one employee you won’t in another. Now, more than ever, shops cannot afford to lose good employees to burn out. Employees in today's market are more likely to just walk away instead of coming to you with their concerns. So how do we keep our employees from burnout and leaving or setting a shop back?

I’m not an expert, and I have a stronger relationship with some of my employees than others. Even though I try, there will always be employees who will keep you at arm's length. For all my employees, I have tried to learn their “love language” so I can show appreciation in a manner they will respond to and hopefully keep them from burning out. Some of my employees have a love language that is Acts of Service, and I have made an effort to do things for them that they appreciate. For two of my employees who have younger kids that I have gotten to know, it means taking their kids out to the movies or out to Chuck-e-Cheese every now and then. The kids love coming to the shop and getting to do something fun, and I have seen how this has helped my relationship grow with those two employees and helped with them not feeling burned out. Another one of my employees' love language is Touch. So, when I give them praise or need to talk to them, I reinforce what I am saying with a pat on the shoulder, a fist bump, or sometimes even a high five, as corny as that sounds.

I’ve also started singling employees out to do something with them that helps strengthen the relationship between us and helps combat some of the burnout that employees will inevitably get. I’ve found this has been hard to do without making other employees feel jealous, but it is doable. This year, I am taking two of my employees with me to SEMA. I am sending another younger employee to training early next year and will be attending the same training with them. I am starting to take another employee who is my "right hand" to my Regional Performance Group that is out of town, and after the group we go a do something non-work related and fun.

The point is that I may not be able to stop burnout in myself or my employees, but I can recognize that this can be a serious issue that affects my shop and our production. I can understand this is going to be an ongoing issue no matter what I do. It is just inevitable because life happens to us and to our employees and all we can do is try to recognize it and combat burnout.