Riddell: Burnout | SkyHiNews.com

Riddell: Burnout

John Riddell
Not Business As Usual
John Ridell writes a business column and a fun, Zoomer-Boomer outdoor column for the Sky-Hi News.
Staff Photo |

When you talk with local business owners and managers and ask how goes their business, the almost universal response is “It’s great!” Yet when you talk to a number of locals, especially those that frequent service businesses, their take on the business has an added twist, and not necessarily a positive one. On the one hand most locals are happy to see a significant uptick for local businesses. Indeed, many of these same locals will go out of their way to patronize local businesses just out of a perceived notion of local obligation. But these same locals are quite a bit perturbed over what they perceive as a significant decrease in customer service. It seems they are getting quite fed up with having to absorb bad attitudes and indifferent treatment. When you engage in chitchat with these same providers of these attitudes and treatment, a consistent tone emerges: “We are overworked and underpaid. I am burned out!” Now considering that we still have a significant portion of the summer/fall vacation season ahead of us, this should be quite alarming for those same owners and managers that think everything is just great.

It has been my experience that the realities of burn out are, more often than not, indicative of a couple of related managerial challenges. Burn out is not a symptom of “too much” (typically hours), but rather a symptom of the inability to connect the “too much” with a personal purpose. This is where the managerial opportunity presents itself.

It is foolish to assume for one second that every employee is working for the same goal. While myopic or naïve managers might take false comfort in assuming that everyone is “making eight or ten or twelve hours” for the good of the business, we know this is not the case. But the majority of folks do have an idea, if even somewhat vague, about why they are doing what they are doing. It might be to make the monthly rent, it might be to buy a new bike, it might be to save up for a down-payment on a house. Whatever it is, the professional manager will engage in conversations with the employee and hear and understand just what is the motivation for the income. These same professional managers will likely have some notes somewhere to remind him or her of these drivers and it is these drivers that become the antidote for burn out. These professional managers will set aside time and deliberately engage in conversations with employees on the progress they are making toward these personal goals. This keeps the individual’s focus on the “why” that justifies the “how many.”

Successfully connecting these causes and effects will have significant and positive results in the area of customer service provided by the all-important front line employees. The upside is that the previously mentioned dissatisfied locals will now have a positive incentive to repeat their decision to part with their hard earned (and sometimes fixed) income at a local establishment. I assure you that this attitude will have a huge impact when the crowds leave and income is wholly dependent upon these same locals.

Finally, and of no connection to burn out, today marks the 76th anniversary of the debut of Bugs Bunny. Before 1940 who ever thought you could make money just by saying “What’s up, Doc?”

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.


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