In a world full of rapid change, both positive and negative, it’s no wonder people are exhausted. The human brain prefers routine and stability, and stability has been shaken many times over the last several years! And as you know, our world has been shaken by positive and negative forces multiple times over the past several years (some would argue over the past few months or even weeks!)
People everywhere are exhausted and weary. The American Psychological Association’s 2022 Trends Report found that 79% of 1,501 adult US workers had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey; 44% of those workers reported physical fatigue, representing a 38% increase since 2019.
As a leader, your team members’ ability to show up and execute job duties is of paramount importance. Yet when team members are exhausted from constant global, personal, or work change, meeting goals becomes difficult or impossible.
Here are five ways you can help your team deal with change exhaustion:
1. Watch for Symptoms
Symptoms of change exhaustion may be tough to spot, especially in a remote work model. Visible physical exhaustion might be easy to see in an office setting, but it is more challenging to spot through a video call. Watch for subtle signs as well as obvious ones. When a team member withdraws from interaction, starts to behave uncharacteristically, or becomes more negative, it could be a sign of exhaustion.
2. Set Up Rituals
The human brain loves rituals, even when it resists them, and rituals can help improve team cohesion and productivity. Look for practices that you can use to ground the team in something unchanging. Maybe you spend fifteen minutes at the beginning of weekly meetings sharing wins or light personal items. It’s also possible that your team or part of your team already has informal rituals. Find something that will bring people together and engender a sense of security.
3. Bring Down the Volume
When it feels like the only constant is change, it can lead to a sense of urgency that may lead people to see everything as an emergency or something that must be handled immediately. As a leader, you can help bring down the volume on this anxious fixing by helping your team prioritize. Calvin Coolidge once said, “If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” If you believe that you don’t have to fix everything right now, it can help your team manage its energy for what’s important.
4. Step Back from Resiliency
While resiliency is generally a good thing, a fatigued team or individual may not want to hear more messaging on how to be resilient. Instead, approach your team with empathy. Step into their shoes and focus on understanding what they are experiencing. Some may be scared that rising inflation and supply chain crises will make it difficult to provide for their families. Others may worry that technology innovations will put their jobs in jeopardy. Sit with them individually and collectively and listen to concerns and fears without trying to fix them. The last thing they need is a message of “hang in there” and “be strong.”
5. Adopt a Growth Mindset
Some change is inevitable, and not all of it is bad, even when it starts under unfavorable circumstances. Help your team avoid getting stuck in a negative cycle by encouraging a growth mindset that focuses on learning and adapting to the change rather than the negative feelings or aspects of the change. Adopting a growth mindset helps give people agency and control when things feel uncertain.
Change is challenging, even in the best of circumstances, and ongoing change is even harder. Rather than ignore it or simply “power through” it, take the time to acknowledge how difficult change is and give your team the tools to make it less exhausting. Your team will likely emerge on the other side more robust, connected, and productive.
- What is one ritual our team could use to help people feel more connected and secure?
- Is anyone on my team who seems especially disengaged, cynical, or tired?
- Does it feel like we’re rushing from one problem or change to the next? How can we prioritize better?
- How can I reframe the messaging around change and adaptability?