Burnout is often linked to chronic stress in the workplace – for many people it has been caused by the Covid pandemic, for others, it has just been revealed during the pandemic. 

The symptoms can be diverse: lack of motivation, anxiety, lack of focus and ability to concentrate, exhaustion, boredom, and mood swings, to mention the most common ones. 

These symptoms can impact your performance in the workplace which can possibly lead to a contract termination. Telling your boss that you are burnt out is the way forward to prevent the possible worst-case scenario from happening and make sure you get the support you need to get through this difficult time. 

Preparing for the conversation

We often tend to think our boss knows when we reach our limits – this would be ideal but is often not the case for different reasons such as working remotely for example without much personal contact. So don’t wait for your boss to address your workload, time management, work-life balance, and everything else that might have led to your burnout. 

Once you are sure that you suffer from burnout, prepare yourself well for the conversation with your boss. Questions you might wish to ask yourself are:

  • Which changes do you wish for/do you need in your workplace? 
  • What is your support system at work looking like and what is missing?

You may want to troubleshoot the issue and brainstorm solutions you can then present to your boss. Consider speaking to a few trusted co-workers who might experience a similar situation to exchange tips and resources. Does your boss have a secretary or personal assistant that might be able to assist with your conversation preparations by giving some input on how to bring up the topic and when to best bring it up?

Practice bringing across your concerns in a non-judgmental way without blaming anyone involved and without making it sound like a complaint for a more effective conversation.

Okay, now that you are well-prepared: 

Write an email with a meeting request including the topic to give your boss the chance to prepare for the meeting as well. Ideally, the meeting happens after a positive performance review for example – when the company/team has just noticed how much you are contributing to your workplace. 

Having the conversation

When going into the conversation, remind yourself: Every boss would rather cooperate with their highly trained staff than hire new people and invest again in training them. 

Based on your preparations, present a plan to your boss that would reduce your burnout symptoms. In a calm way, be very clear about which kind of support you will need and what you expect from them going forward. 

You may want to remind your boss that you value your job, that your work brings value to the company, and that you are making an effort to resolve the burnout without having to leave.  

Be confident – nobody can stand up for yourself except you. 

After having the conversation 

What happens after the conversation, depends on how the conversation with your boss went. 

In general, whether your boss reacted positively or not, taking a break from your workplace can help you reassess the situation.

Once you are recovering from your burnout, you might wish to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your progress and the way forward. 

Bad Reaction= New Beginning?

In case your boss did not react well, it might be a sign to look for a new job. Weighing your pros and cons is key in taking a decision that is best for you. Take some time to reflect on whether a change of job or even career would be a possibility going forward.

Taking a decision to leave the current workplace and engaging in interviews for a new job will bring up the question of why you have left your previous workplace: Without revealing every detail, you can be open about your reasons to leave and look for a more suitable position. 

If it feels too difficult to speak to your boss or decide the way forward, consider some counselling to process the current situation and find the strength to take action.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with the Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma and general mental health.