The effects of corporate and management burnout

February 17, 2023

By now, you may be aware of the phenomenon dubbed "burnout." The phrase describes emotional, mental and physical exhaustion due to overworking. We've read countless opinion columns and think-pieces about the syndrome — how it's caused, how to prevent it and how to deal with it.

However, what many of these articles don't dig into is the different kinds of burnout. The burnout that a retail employee working on a shop floor experiences will necessarily be vastly different from those of a chief executive officer. So, that begs the question: What does burnout look like in a corporate environment at a managerial level? What impact does it have on businesses and the economy at large?

Let's take a look.

The face of corporate burnout

As Forbes explains, middle management is bearing most of the brunt after the Great Resignation. In 2022 alone, more than four million American employees quit their jobs in search of greener pastures. This left managers and supervisors across the country scrambling to do damage control in the wake of workers resigning en masse. Suddenly, management in businesses across all sectors and industries had to grapple with hundreds of thousands of job vacancies.

High employee turnover rates meant — and continue to mean — exorbitant recruitment, hiring and onboarding/training costs for desperately needed new employees. Consequently, middle managers had to work exhausting hours under immense pressure to contend with filling almost innumerable job openings and mitigating their often devastating economic effects.

Middle management burnout is becoming an American corporate epidemic, and the numbers prove it. A survey recently carried out by Future Forum discovered that over 40% of employees in these positions reported feeling burnt out. That statistic applies to executives, too, who described unsustainable work-related stress. One-fifth of senior decision-makers said they're finding it almost impossible to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

What management burnout means for business

Unfortunately, the outlook isn't good. When people in more senior positions are burnt out, their lack of motivation and productivity trickles down to the members of the teams they lead. Invariably, this causes many lower-ranking employees either to "quiet quit" or to formally resign. Either way, this feeds into the vicious cycle of remaining managers having to deal with the aftermath of employee turnover.

Research conducted by Hubspot found that this decreased employment and lost productivity could cost the U.S. economy almost $2 trillion every year — an astonishing figure by any measure. So, how can organizations cope with the effects of manager burnout? As with most things, prevention is better than cure. According to Gallup, the key to overcoming this obstacles lies in focusing on the positives and addressing and mitigating the negatives. Mid-level managers in particular must regularly meet with each other and senior management and the executive committee to discuss challenges causing corporate burnout such as unclear expectations, unrealistic workloads, lack of autonomy or jurisdiction and siloed departments and workflows.