Burnout and politics?

Tuesday night I was present at the award ceremony of the company of the year 2013 by EY. The prize was presented by European president Herman van Rompuy himself. Before Herman van Rompuy would hand over the prize, he was asked some short questions regarding burnout by a journalist.

How does European president Herman van Rompuy prevent burnout?

She asked him about his realizations within Europe. European president Herman van Rompuy simply answered "We have kept stability. We have made sure that the Euro still exists." I know that for many people, this message can sound odd or weird, because in this large world we always want to grow, always higher, always better,... and meanwhile, the burnout statistics increase more and more. Many companies confess that over 5% of their employees are at home with a burnout at the moment. Depending on the sector, the results differ. Banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, ICT companies, and consultants are often hit hardest, as well as pharmaceutical companies.

Burnout prevention through keeping what you have?

It takes courage to say that your goal is not to grow but rather to keep what you have built. Sometimes we need to learn to be proud of that, because - who knows - our growth model might be put under pressure. Is a human really made to grow endlessly? We might otherwise burn ourselves out until a doctor tells us that we have a burnout. It is likely that the humble approach by European president Herman van Rompuy has prevented a lot of burnout, both for millions of Europeans as well as for himself and his direct employees.

Burnout prevention through staying true to our inner values?

A few days after Herman van Rompuy because the president of Europe, a friend of his passed away. The day after, he went to the widow to pay his respects to the lost friend. "I will be at the funeral on Saturday", he said. I was myself present at the funeral and, indeed, the new president of Europe had time for the important human value of saying goodbye to a friend, even through this friend would never know of this. Integrity and sticking to one's core values. Maybe that is how we can avoid becoming so burnt out? In April 2010, Vacature,com interviewed me regarding the potential leadership of the future European president Herman van Rompuy. You can see my reflections from back then in the following video:


Burnout prevention through customer satisfaction?

A while back I spoke to an employee in a company within the financial sector, which is a sector on the risk-list. I asked:

  • - do you also suffer so much from burnout in your company?
  • - No, the answer was
  • - Why is that, according to you? I asked
  • - Our bosses do not ask us to sell certain products to our clients, like our competition does. They do not push us to realize certain targets. They have told us the same thing for years in a row: "Make sure that you do not lose any customers. Keep your customers, and take good care of them."

Burnout prevention through setting realistic goals?

In the story of this financial institution and in the story about European president Herman van Rompuy, there is one specific theme which they have in common: Take care of what you have. Strive for stability. This financial institution is doing well and gains more revenue than the competition which presses its employees like one would a lemon. This financial institution has little budget which needs to be used for the (steep) costs of burnout treatment. This company does not need to work hard to get back the old customers who walk away from over-stressed employees. Is this maybe the time to think about the costs of wild growth, and the cost of burnout in your company? Might it be time to promote leaders who teach us to live with the reality, rather than through blinding us with something which is not (yet) possible? Sometimes, people need to realize things, and sometimes a company needs time to reflect whether grow might or might not be the right goal to set.

Burnout test

Would you like to know how you are doing yourself? Then test yourself with our free burnout test.

Paul Koeck, MD