According to Gallup, 76% of employees say they have experienced burnout. If you’re one of them and you’re determined to find a new job, how can you tell if a potential employer has a culture of burnout? Does the company care about your welfare and productivity? Or will it leave you feeling burnt out and making you have to look for a new job all over again?
You can glean a lot from what a company makes public. A company’s job posting will convey to you the company’s corporate culture. You can try searching for inclusive language in job postings, paying attention to job postings that mention job flexibility or remote work. Also, look at the company’s benefits package: Does the company offer employees mental health benefits, subsidize child care, or provide paid time off for caregivers? You can also check for reviews of the company on career sites to see if it’s on the list of top places to work of the year.
Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to tell whether this publicly available information is a way of branding the company, or if the company is actually making a real investment in a system that rewards healthy work habits. Therefore, job seekers should be prepared to ask some probing questions during the interview phase and take an objective observation of the interviewer’s behavior.
Spot the red flags of burnout
The following guidelines can provide us with a guideline, which suggests the signals we need to look for, the questions to ask and the methods to evaluate the answers during the interview process. Through these methods, we can assess whether a company has a burnout culture that treats employees as commodities, or a holistic culture that puts people first. Researchers Michael P. Leiter and Christina Maslach have identified six causes of burnout, which we’ll address below.
1. Lack of autonomy
When you have little choice over how and when you work, you can easily burn out. In a healthy company, managers will give you full confidence that you can do a good job. To assess how a company views autonomy, you can ask questions like:
Am I flexible in my daily working hours?
How would you rate my working hours?
How do you distribute workload and set deadlines?
If the work involves shifts, how far in advance will you notify us of the change in working hours?
Beware: You want to make sure your manager is open, flexible, and not micromanaging. Clear answers to these questions can show that expectations are aligned across the team and employees are given appropriate autonomy.
2. Lack of fairness
It’s easy to feel burned out or demoralized when your hard work isn’t appreciated or you don’t feel like you’re being treated equally with your colleagues. To gauge your potential employer’s perception of fairness, you can ask them:
What employee metrics are you looking at?
How are promotions determined?
Do you have a process for conducting pay equity reviews?
Do you have diverse positions? How many people are on your DEI team?
How do you report on diversity goals?
Which employee organizations do you support, and are members paid extra for taking a leadership role in an event?
Beware: What you want to focus on is whether the company has a proactive process in place to ensure greater fairness, and how many resources the company has dedicated to it. Listen and see if the interviewer is candid about the disclosure of the company’s flaws and desire to improve. If the company isn’t collecting data on diversity or equity, or your interviewers aren’t willing to answer these questions, then they’re less likely to take the issue to heart as a matter of concern.
3. Unsustainable workload
According to a Gallup survey, employees are 70% less likely to experience high levels of burnout if they have enough time to complete their work. To understand how your potential employer perceives your time in and out of the workplace, you can ask questions like:
What are our standard working hours? How often do people work weekends?
How much time will this position spend in meetings? When are these meetings usually scheduled?
What is the expected turnaround time for emails?
Have you agreed on a time for cooperation?
Can I turn off notifications on my own time?
How do you prioritize tasks and lighten excess load?
How do teams communicate when they have too much to juggle?
When do you have team building activities—do you usually arrange team building during the working day or outside of working hours?
How do you distribute those “office housework tasks” (such as taking meeting notes or ordering meals)?
Note: Through the above questions, what you are looking for is a standard within the organization to prevent overwork. You need to focus: Does the company have a busy culture where everyone has to be on call 24/7? Are you taking on a lot of unpaid work? Are meetings usually scheduled in the morning or after four in the afternoon? You also need to pay attention to how the other person treats you during the interview process. Will your interviewer arrive at the scheduled time? Did they have an expectation of you and stay in touch with you throughout the interview process?
4. Lack of returns
We all want our hard work to be well rewarded, whether it’s through salary, promotion, or other incentives. To assess a potential employer’s investment in your career development, you can ask:
What are the criteria and process for promotion?
How often are employees promoted?
Do you have a budget for professional development?
Do you offer leadership training or executive training?
How are mentors assigned?
Beware: What you’re looking for is signs that the company has clear processes and objective criteria for promotions. You want to have a dedicated career coach to support your development, not a dedicated career coach after something goes wrong.
5. Lack of team support
You want to be able to give your full attention to your work and feel comfortable contributing without being overly upset if you make a mistake. If you spend so much of your energy on relationships and worry that you’ll be judged incompetent for any missteps, you’ll feel burnt out. To assess whether you would work in a supportive team, you can ask:
How do you give feedback to employees?
Can you describe how you handle errors in your team?
How do you make sure everyone can contribute their ideas?
How do you handle conflict?
How often do you have personal communications with team members?
How do you assess team morale?
Beware: You want to see if the manager is willing to learn from their mistakes and if they are interested in you as a person. Also pay attention during the interview: Do you feel like they are taking you seriously, listening, and respecting your opinion? Does the person in front of you try to put you at ease? Have they ever asked about your hobbies outside of work? Did they demonstrate active listening skills? If your interview is in a small group, you can observe how people interact. Do you see an openness to collaboration? Are people patient and gracious with each other? Is someone dominating or interrupting your conversation?
6. Value deviation
We all want our work to be meaningful, and a misalignment of values can affect our motivation. You can assess whether your values match those of a potential employer by asking the following questions:
How does this position relate to the company’s mission?
Can you describe how the company’s values guide decision-making?
How does the team’s work affect the company’s goals?
What is my 0KR?
Does the company encourage us to do community service during working hours?
How does the company give back to the local community?
Beware: Can the interviewer clearly communicate the company’s values? Do you see values you subscribe to in the company’s values? You can also ask for more details on specific values that are important to you, such as diversity or sustainability, etc.
If you’re struggling with burnout, you may want to seek support to help you set boundaries and reset or identify your needs and values until you’re ready to look for a new job. As you prepare to apply for a new position, you can use this guide to help you search for companies that will support you, find a company that matches your needs and values, and contribute to your success in your new position. get ready