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The Secret to Avoiding Burnout

To prevent employee burnout, managers must understand what passions their employees simply can not sacrifice.
COLLABORATORS Marissa Mayer
Google's VP of HR on keeping employees happy and productive
photo by Jorg Meyer

“I have a theory that burnout is about resentment, and you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful.”

— Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo

Mayer explains her theory in Bloomberg Businessweek by offering as an example a dedicated Google employee who didn’t mind holding 1 a.m. conference calls with colleagues in India — if it meant she could occasionally leave work early to attend her child’s soccer game or recital.

In Mayer’s view, managers need to understand employees’ extracurricular passions and accommodate them. The challenge is to get people to recognize and express how important certain personal activities and interests are to their daily “rhythm.”

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THE PLUS

How do you get employees to reveal their passions? Be genuinely curious. “If you want employees to ‘speak truth to power,’ you have to go get it, because the default for many is likely to be silence,” notes James R. Detert, associate professor at Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Detert’s research on employee silence reveals that the solution is often “active managerial behaviors — going out of one’s way to explicitly solicit voice from subordinates and engaging in various ‘loop closing’ follow up.” You’ll find a terrific synopsis of Detert’s work in the online magazine Thought Leadership@Johnson.

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