Too much of a good thing

How Much is Too Much of a Good Thing?

Well, here I am in Tunisia, and I’m not sure where the time has gone or whether I am more happy to be going home, or more sad to be leaving.  And it made me ask the question – how much is ‘too much’ of a good thing. 

I don’t know about you, but 7 days never seem long enough, and sometimes 14 days seems too much.  On the other hand, I remember a friend saying that on her honeymoon she was so pleased at the end of 2 weeks in paradise – to be waving off the other honey-mooners who were leaving.  But less than 48 hours later they started pining for home and were finger tapping (metaphorically) for the last 5 days.

We are coming home tomorrow and I’m happy with that – especially as we then have the weekend for all the washing and mail opening etc.  But it made me think – it’s a bit like managing staff (except for the sun and beach of course).

When you are trying to keep your team productive, happy and busy, it is important not to give them too much to do.  Too much work, and the inability to complete it, is vastly demotivating and will lead to LESS being achieved not more, as people are trying to deal with a feeling of ball-juggling and overwhelm.

Recognising Burnout

If you have some Type A’s in your team, they will be only too happy to take on more and more tasks, more and more responsibility.  And they will be the last to see they are in danger of or suffering from burnout.  As the leader, you need to recognise the signs and take action. 

The key 3 symptoms of physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment – can be further broken down. 

And here’s what to look for regarding burn out. 

If you have someone who is always tired – and talks about not being able to get to sleep, or waking in the night and not returning to sleep – this is a classic.  Lack of sleep exacerbates the problem (the underlying stress) and leads to other symptoms like forgetfulness and lack of attention to detail.  If someone who previously had the memory of an elephant, starts to forget things – this is a red flag. 

Under this category comes physical symptoms – dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches for example, and also real illnesses.  This is because prolonged stress weakens the immune system. 

Irritability and anger outbursts are another common sign of burn out. 

Under ‘cynicism and detachment’, you’ll find signs of pessimism in a previous optimist, and signs that they are not enjoying their work anymore including ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ syndrome, and dreading Mondays.

Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment are signaled by poor productivity and performance, and again, signs of irritability or picking arguments. 

Burnout is a real and present danger in every workforce, especially in our “ever on, 24-hour” world.

Recognising Disengagement

However, not giving your team enough responsibility or enough work to do, can also be demotivating.  They will potentially feel bored, undervalued and unmotivated.  And then they disengage from the job and from you.

Signs of a disengaged workforce can be similar to signs of burnout above, but there are differences. 

Here is what to look out for.

There are some obvious signs like rudeness, absenteeism, lateness, low energy, bad attitudes and lack of enthusiasm.  But people don’t suddenly one day decide to stage a coup from their desk.  There are signs that come before this, that give a clue to employee disengagement.

Firstly – don’t make the mistake of thinking because someone is hitting goals that they are engaged.  They might just have a high sense of personal responsibility and work ethic. 

When I was in the police force, I knew several people who performed their job very well, from a sense of civic duty and personal pride.  But they hated their manager who didn’t trust them to do their job and didn’t make them feel valued, or that their career ambitions mattered. 

What you will find with this kind of person though, is a lack of initiative.  They won’t suggest any improvements or innovations, they won’t take part in team days or out of work activities.  They have disengaged from the process.

The second sign to look for is an overindulgence in something.  Are they going for a fag more often, or a coffee?  Are they gaining weight?  Do they come into work looking the worse for wear?  Often people who have lost their mojo, fill the gap with something else – and not always a healthy something else!

If people are dis-engaged, you might also notice a lack of enthusiasm for things you would hope people would be enthusiastic about – company or team wins for example or lack of interest in training.  And also – watch out for people who do ‘nothing’ at the weekends or in the evenings. 

When you are demotivated at work, it can infiltrate into all parts of your life.  This is not always the case of course, but certainly, if someone is becoming depressed, these signs are far more likely to be apparent.

Getting the balance right, like everything in life, is not easy but it is possible. 

In order to get the balance between giving too much work and responsibility, and not enough, you need 3 things:-

  • Understand your staff
  • Know what they want
  • Be clear on their skill level or training needs.

If you have staff who know where they are going, and their goals are achievable and in line with company goals.  If those staff feel important, listened to and understood.  And if they also have the skills, experience and/or knowledge to complete the tasks, and understand the upside of doing so (and downside of not doing so), then you can strike that balance between ‘too much’ and ‘not enough’. 

If you need any help or inspiration with that email me at or visit our Facebook Page here.  

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