Project Manager Burnout: Signs and Causes
Burnout is a new disease of the XXI century. Almost three-quarters of full-time workers, especially that who work with people, experience burnout at some point during their careers. It is a state of physical and mental exhaustion that leads to underperforming, cynicism, and disengagement.
When project managers get burnt out, the entire team takes a hit. Burned-out PMs can result in complications for your business, from lower productivity and higher turnover rates to severe planning and cost-related problems. The average burned-out employee costs an employer 34% of their annual salary.
In this article, Fireart studio will explain the most common causes of project manager burnout and explain how to prevent it in the early stage. Proceed with reading, and you will learn how to help yourself or colleagues when burnout is already there.
What Causes Project Manager Burnouts?
It is no secret that PM is an important role in any project. In outsourcing, they are a bridge between a client and a development team. Their responsibilities include building sustainable work processes, tracking team progress toward project goals, maintaining documentation, and onboarding new members. We offer project management services as a part of IT staff augmentation service.
So where do they get that unbearable workload from? Industry research shows that only 15% of project managers have one project at a time. More than half of them (52%) have from two to five projects simultaneously. This results in large amounts of repetitive routine tasks and context switching.
Most IT project managers (67%) believe that their job is fairly compensated and are satisfied with it. However, like any other people in the tech industry, they are at high risk of burnout.
According to BurnotIndex research, the most popular causes of managers’ burnout are:
Feeling pressure to work long hours
Whether it is real or perceived, it prompts you to work overtime.
Lack of work-life balance
The inability to unplug after working hours leaves no room for personal life.
Feeling of self-inefficacy
Sometimes standards may appear unreachable and fuel your impostor syndrome.
We all love to laugh at toxic workplace memes until they become our reality.
The job of a project manager isn’t among the most predictable and stable ones. It does not add confidence and security.
What Are The Signs of Project Manager Burnout?
Here is some good news for you — burnout is something that you can prevent. Noticing the earliest signs will make the PM’s recovery easier.
Created by Yuliia Bulyndina
The Earliest Signs
They might not be obvious, so we encourage you to be attentive. Here are the most common warning signs of burnout:
Unusually High Performance
It is not a bad sign, especially when it increases a team’s performance. But responsible business is not only about numbers. It is about workers’ well-being too.
One of the hidden reasons behind this productivity could be desperately trying to fit an endless workload into the limited working hours. If you notice your colleagues behaving this way, please offer them some help. They will thank you later.
Troubles With Decision-Making
Project managers are responsible for making decisive actions. They set KPIs for a team, onboard new members, and care for healthy relationships in the group. Such an authority requires a large amount of emotional effort.
If you notice that your PM is trying to postpone or avoid making decisions, that is a warning sign. You can volunteer to share your responsibility.
Complaints About Health
Be mindful when your colleague casually asks you about good painkillers or complains about sleep quality. It might be a piece of the burnout picture puzzle.
Asking for more days off or sick leaves also falls into this category. These symptoms indicate that the person already struggles with bearing such a workload but does not want to admit it. Try to support them and help to deal with the stress.
When Burnout is Already Here
When your project manager has already reached their limit, their burnout becomes obvious. Although now it is easier to notice, it is also harder to fix. The following symptoms indicate project manager burnout:
One day, they are bursting with energy and eager to help everyone,and the other day, they are gloomy and stressed out. Mood amplitude keeps growing; one day, you will find them crying over everyday stuff.
Such PMs become complicated to deal with and may scare clients or new team members away. Please, do not leave them alone with this problem. Talk to them, show that you care, and be sincere.
Reduced performance is the core symptom, after which top management notices the PM’s burnout and may take serious measures as it endangers project goals and commitments.
Suppose you value your project manager and advocate for them at this stage. Show your maturity as a team and focus your efforts on achieving the project goals. Your PM should get some deserved rest; having someone back them up is an ideal case.
4 Steps to Deal With PM Burnout
When burnout is already there, it is still not too late to help. To fight it effectively, first, you should identify the main cause.
Created by Yuliia Bulyndina
Identify the Stressing Factors
According to the American Institute of Stress, workload (39%) is on top of the workplace stressors, the others are interpersonal issues (31%), no work-life balance (19%), and job security (6%).
Effective Time Management
If there is no time in the PM’s schedule, there is simply no time. The project will not derail if it waits for a couple of hours. In fact, you have no time not because you are doing nothing but because you are busy with other duties.
Take short walks every couple of hours and have lunch on schedule. Try the Pomodoro method if you are comfortable with using a timer. And remember: not only smokers can take short breaks.
Do Not Do Everything On Your Own
Besides tasks requiring project management expertise, there are other kinds of work. You don’t have to fight with a growing workload alone.
Ask to Audit the Role
Has the scope of your responsibilities increased recently? If so, point that out to your superiors and suggest hiring one more specialist to cover the load.
Rather than working on an enormous task all at once, break it down into smaller pieces with reachable goals for each stage. Smaller jobs are easier to delegate. With each stepping stone, you will be closer to the high-level goal than if you will do nothing. This principle comes from Kaizen, a Japanese philosophy concept.
According to the Kaizen method applied to corporate structures, there is no person in the team whose work does not bring value to the shared goal. It helps to cultivate transparency and data-driven changes. Such an approach makes everyone feel valued and respected, which induces mutual aid and collaboration in the team.
Be Mindful About your Health
Always prioritize your health. When you feel good, you have higher stress resistance, irradiate a positive vibe, and feel more enthusiastic about your job.
Seek Professional Medical Help
Consult a specialist to ensure there is no bigger problem behind burnout. It may be depression or other disorders which require a particular approach. With a professional diagnosis and treatment, it will take you less time to feel positive changes.
Support Yourself With Technology
Nowadays, taking care of mental health is easier with digital tools. Fitness trackers and smart watches may help you to take a break and go for a walk.
There are also mobile apps that will help you on your way to self-improvement. Try those for digital journaling, meditation, exercising, drinking water, and maintaining a healthy diet.
For those who experience high levels of stress, Mindfulness apps will be helpful. Although there are a lot of them, we suggest you choose them with caution. Prefer evidence-based ones, like Headspace. It provides not only reminders to meditate but also mindfulness training to ensure that you are doing it right. This approach is scientifically proven to reduce stress.
Set Boundaries Between Work and Personal Life
Some people feel pressured to overwork and constantly be in touch. They always have their work laptop with them and shudder at the sound of Slack or MS Teams notifications. If it describes your relationship with your job, check out the following tips:
Unplug from Work In the Evenings
Whether it’s paperwork, emails, or your physical computer, put everything aside after your workday is done. Communicate that to your colleagues and explain why that is important for you.
Take WFH Days
Make at least one working day from home per week. It will give you a more relaxed morning and a comfortable outfit for the day with no risk to your performance.
Use Vacation Days
Let us normalize using vacation days without feeling guilty. They are a part of compensation, as well as your paycheck. Claim your right to 1-2-3 weeks of vacation each year and reward yourself with going for memorable experiences.
In this article, we explained the project manager burnout phenomenon and provided insights on recognizing its earliest symptoms. With our tips, you can notice them and prevent your colleague from complete exhaustion.
At Fireart, we care about the mental health of our employees. Our project managers do their best to set the boundaries between work and life and are watchful for the slightest signs of burnout.
We value our talents, and they provide excellent results and stay with us for a long time. That is why Fireart is a reliable vendor for long-term software development and product design projects. Contact us if you have some project in mind. Rest assured, we will take care of them.