Burnout rates are at an all-time high, impacting over 40% of the U.S. workforce. Employee well-being continues to be of concern moving further into 2023.

Up in Flames

Employee burnout is at an all-time high, impacting over 40% of the U.S. workforce, according to Future Forum’s most recent poll. This far out from the thick of the pandemic, we would expect burnout to be decreasing, especially since the employee experience has become a much bigger focus for many organizations.

As companies transition back to in-person working arrangements, employees may feel their needs are being overlooked. The work from home order may have sparked new priorities for employees; 93% of employees want flexible working arrangements (Fortune Forum). When autonomy over work is threatened, frustration rises. The result- an increase in burnout.  When employee priorities clash with employer expectations, do employees give in or start quiet quitting?

Fueling the Fire

The mismatch between employees’ values and the work that they are expected to do may be propelling the fire. When our values, beliefs, self-image, behaviors, and/or actions contradict each other, a person often experiences mental discomfort. This discomfort is called “cognitive dissonance.” Our brains often go through a series of mental gymnastics to overcome this angst.  This ignites an increased likelihood of distorting judgments, reduced learning capabilities, delayed responses, and greater difficulty accepting changes.

Leadership style, discrimination, double standards, and unethical or inappropriate business practices can create tension between employee and employer. What happens when an employee is put on a project but not given the resources required to complete it? An HR professional who constantly must convince co-workers of the company’s new policies even though they’ve yet to convince themselves?

Often, when faced with these moral type dilemmas, employees succumb to the pressure and just complete the task. However, the residual feelings associated with compromising one’s character linger on. If unaddressed, cognitive dissonance can lead to increased stress, resentment, burnout, absenteeism, disengagement, and reduced performance.

Extinguishing the Flame

So how do organizations prevent burnout and combat cognitive dissonance for their employees?

More connection, less confusion. Only half of employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them at work (Gallup). Cognitive dissonance can often be alleviated by focusing more on communication. Simply offering more information to employees or presenting it in a way that resonates with their values, can change the way information is received. How leaders frame communications to their employees significantly impacts how employees experience their work. 

In our work, we have found that when managers change how they communicate with their team, they can significantly increase levels of engagement and satisfaction.  When leaders build an open, two-way communication norm in team meetings, they promote a trusting and inclusive environment for employees to safely express their opinions. When employees feel their voice is heard, they feel more connected to the organization and more invested in their work.

If your organization is experiencing significant burnout, reach out today to see how we leverage behavioral insights when tailoring your communications, to create both narrative and graphical presentations sure to resonate with your employees and drive performance.

You can order your copy of Leading Human to guide you through the uncertainties and challenges faced by today’s leaders. The Leading Human Playbook is a 104-page comprehensive guide to building a positive workplace that deals effectively with today’s anxieties and stresses. The companion Leading Human Workbook takes the science-backed insights detailed within the playbook and allows today’s forward-thinking leaders and organizations to turn those insights into action.


Future Forum Pulse Report Winter 2022-2023

Three Ways Mission-Driven Workplaces Perform Better (gallup.com)