How To Talk To Your Boss About Work Burnout (Even When They're Causing It)

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You probably already know the symptoms of work burnout. You are overwhelmed, stressed, and you feel like you can't bring yourself to care about anything anymore. Focusing on even the smallest task may seem impossible. Even though these feelings may sound familiar, even common-place, it's actually really important that you do something about them. "The longer you let these symptoms continue without heeding their call and making changes to your schedule/life, the greater your chances of burnout, and eventually, possibly, depression or other mental illness," clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D., tells Bustle. "This is why it’s so important to pay attention to these signs and symptoms, to take them seriously, and to seek help in overcoming them as needed."

If you are feeling burnout at work, it is time to talk to your boss. I know that can sound like an impossible task. You don't want to come across as a bad employee, you worry about keeping your job, and there's a chance that your boss is even part of the problem. But you need to address the issue to find a solution and give yourself some respite. So here is how to start that conversation, because you are definitely not alone.

It's scary how many people experience work burnout; a survey from the Families and Work Institute found that over half of people felt overworked or overwhelmed, and 70 percent dreamed of a different job. It's not OK, but it should make you feel more secure in talking to your boss. This is something that happens in the workplace — and your boss should know how to handle it.


When you're put on the spot, you may feel tempted to downplay the severity of how you're feeling — especially if your boss is being unresponsive. But try to be honest about what you've been feeling. Make sure to show examples of how you've been a strong, dedicated employee and present a solid case for why being overloaded is bad for you and bad for the company as a whole. Be honest and specific about what you need to remedy the situation. If it seems reasonable, it will be harder for your boss to refuse.

Sometimes, the problem is bigger than workload. Sometimes it's a toxic work environment that causes you to burn out. "A toxic work environment is any that makes you feel uncomfortable, unappreciated, or undervalued," certified professional coach Lori Scherwin tells Bustle. "This can range from all out bullying, screaming and [being] talked down to, to more subtle forms of poor communication, setting people up for failure, mismanagement and an air of hostility. It can come from your boss, your peers, your juniors and even your clients. No one should ever have to work in an environment that causes your stomach to go in quivers but the unfortunate reality is it's more normal than we'd prefer. Often professionals 'accept it' as is, which can do more harm for you in the long-run, both professionally and also personally." If this is the problem, your boss really needs to know about it. And chances are, other employees are probably affected too.

It can be really intimidating to confront your boss about work burnout — especially if your boss is causing some of it. Stick to your guns and be honest about what's going on, because you don't deserve to live like this.