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Are you battling burnout?

A topic that is coming up all the more often is burnout. As leaders, we cannot ignore it.  We may even be going through burnout ourselves. As we continue this thread of leading in difficult times, let's take a few minutes to begin to wrap our arms around this subject.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

  • Max de Pree

The reality is things are pretty rough for a lot of people right now. That includes you and me. We have all made changes over the last 20 months that we likely didn’t expect (or perhaps even want) to make. But we cannot look past this truth: Leaders must define reality. You would be hard pressed to say that things are not different. We have all had to change, and change is hard. Some people respond or react differently when going through a change.  Some people can become downright angry (think of Bruce Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk).

Many years ago, I was at an event and, believe it or not, the topic of burnout came up in conversation. Someone made the comment that he felt like he was a hamster being prompted to run faster and faster on a wheel. A colleague from pharma made a comment to the effect that he was spinning plates on the ends of sticks and he was simply waiting for everything to crash down. But then there was a young woman in the group who shared a bit of wisdom that I will share with you now. She said, “People don’t burn out from solving problems. People burn out from not being able to solve the same problem.”


How true is that?!?

People can solve problems all day long. You and I both do it. This is how we deliver value to the marketplace (we can talk more about this another time). Some people even have these apps on their phone that some call “games” and others call “time wasters.” People can go for hours playing these games and solving the “problems” that these games put in front of them. You can actually enjoy playing and before you know it, an obscene amount of time has passed. I know. I have done it myself. 

But what happens if you get to a puzzle you cannot solve? What if you fail many times? You potentially get burned out and stop playing the game.

Now, I do not have any intention of comparing the stress of working in a pharmacy and providing care to our communities with any kind of game. The example was intended for illustration. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from the example.

When you burn out from Candy Crush or Angry Birds, what do you do? You walk away.  Sometimes you may even go play a different game. But the grass isn’t always greener (see old blog post), is it? You may soon burn out at this game or environment as well.

So, as leaders, we need to define reality. Burnout is happening. Pretty much everywhere. Why is it happening? Most likely from not being able to solve the same problem. So, what is that problem that you and your team are facing? Are you facing multiple problems? I would suggest there probably are: for starters: home and work.  We have problems at home and problems at work, and when they don’t go away, we burn out.

So, take 5 minutes and write down the problems you and your team are facing. Supply issues, staff issues, patients lacking people skills, maybe even people lacking patience skills. They are all fair game. Write them down because this allows us to better define reality.

We will pick up from here when we meet next.

Until next time,
Jesse McCullough, PharmD

Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn


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