Feeling Burnt Out? Here’s How to Talk to Your Manager
Sarah Brodsky / MARCH 08 2021

It’s easy to get burned out if you’re working a demanding job with long hours. Add the stresses of the pandemic, and you have a recipe for feeling drained, exhausted, and unmotivated.

Ignoring your burnout and keeping your feelings bottled up inside can make the problem worse. To deal with the root causes, you’ll likely need to talk to your manager and ask for help. 

Listen to your gut

First, see how you feel about sharing this information with your manager. For most people, talking to their boss about burnout is a good first step toward addressing the problem. But there are some situations where it might not be appropriate or could be risky. For example, if you’re in a temporary position and you have only one week left on the job, it probably doesn’t make sense to have this conversation; you are about to leave the job anyway, and your frustration with it will soon be a thing of the past. Or if you know that your manager isn’t sympathetic to stressed-out employees and that he or she recently fired someone else who broached the topic, you’ll want to think carefully about whether your manager is the right person to turn to.

If for any reason you aren’t comfortable approaching your manager, you should still try to find someone to talk to about your burnout, like a mentor or close friend. That person won’t be able to alter your job responsibilities but can still offer support and help you navigate the situation. 

If you decide to talk to your manager, here’s how to proceed.

State the problem

Ask for a private meeting with your manager so you can both give the matter your full attention. Then, tell your manager that you’re facing a challenge with work, and you need help to surmount it. Explain that you’re feeling burned out. Try to pinpoint some specific factors that are contributing to your burnout, like unusually long shifts, new tasks you’re struggling with, or an especially heavy workload because of reduced staffing.

Don’t cast blame

It’s understandable if you’re feeling upset about the circumstances that prompted your feelings of burnout, but try not to take that out on your manager. Share your perspective without accusing anyone. Don’t say, “I can’t learn this new front desk software by myself! This is your fault. You set me up to fail!” Instead, you might say, “I’m working extra hours trying to learn the new software without much guidance, and I feel like I’ve hit a wall. I’ve put a lot of effort into trying to understand the system, but I haven’t been able to master it, and this is frustrating for me.”

Be open to your manager’s ideas

Your manager might have suggestions on how to deal with your burnout, such as changing your schedule or divvying up tasks differently. Try to be receptive to these ideas, even if they aren’t exactly the strategy you would have chosen. See if you can find a compromise. For example, if you want one-on-one training on the new reservation software and your manager offers to let you take an online course instead, you might propose taking the course and then spending a shift shadowing a coworker who’s more comfortable with the software and who can answer your questions. 

Agree on a plan of action

At the end of your meeting, write down the steps you and your manager are going to take to tackle your feelings of burnout. Create a list that specifies how and when you’ll take action, such as:

  • I will take an online course on the reservation system from Wednesday through Thursday.
  • I’ll shadow Samantha on Saturday afternoon for some additional coaching.
  • Starting Sunday, my manager will assign James to be my assistant at the front desk to help make the workload more manageable as I gain experience with the new software. 

Ask for a meeting in a few weeks to reevaluate

Schedule another meeting with your manager a few weeks out, when you will have had some time to try the plan. To prepare for the meeting, rate your feelings of frustration or burnout on a scale of 1 to 10 each day, so you can see if the suggestions are helping. Write down a few things that are working well about the new arrangements, and if any challenges arise, write those down too. Then at your meeting, you and your manager can assess your progress and adjust your work duties further if needed.