A member of staff is not coping with their workload.   You’ve noticed one or more of the following:

  • a decrease in their productivity and the quality of the work;
  • working long hours into the evening and at weekends;
  • an inability to concentrate and remember important things;
  • they’ve become distant and perhaps disengaged from you and their colleagues;
  • they’re tired – sometimes exhausted;
  • they’re coming in late;
  • they’re taking more time off sick than normal;
  • they’re irritable and often make cynical comments;
  • they’re no longer showing the same passion for their work;
  • they’re overeating and gaining weight; or
  • have lost their appetite.

If you as a Manager see some of these signs, then you need to take a positive course of action as quickly as possible.  Allowing these symptoms to continue – and more than likely increase – will inevitably lead to long-term health risks with the resultant detrimental effect on your business.

What to do

The employee is likely to be nervous and worried about admitting they are not coping for whatever reason so reassurance from their Manager that there will be no repercussions for them is essential.

Take a supportive approach by facilitating a safe and understanding environment for them to feel they are able to talk about their feelings.

  1. Talk to them

You need to understand what’s behind your employee’s change of behavior – it could be that they’re feeling overwhelmed at work or it could be they’re dealing with a difficult situation in their personal life, an illness or any number of other things.  Find out what’s going on.

Find a suitable time and place that is private and where you both feel comfortable to have an informal conversation.  Tell them you’ve always valued them but you’re genuinely worried about them as you’ve noticed changes in them. Ask open questions about how they’re feeling to encourage them to open up.  If they’re reluctant to say anything, be specific.  You could ask:

  • What are you working on right now?
  • If you had the choice to change what you are doing, how would you change it?
  • I’ve noticed you’re not engaging with me and your colleagues in the same way that you used to – why is that?
  1. Listen

Being available and listening to your employee is key.

Most people who are experiencing these kind of symptoms will appreciate being genuinely listened to with empathy and non-judgementally.

Allow them to open up and talk freely without interruption.   It could be they are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work or it could be they are simply not enjoying work any more.

  1. Give support

Show emotional support by recognizing and accepting how your employee feels and give them hope and confidence that you are there to help them.  

  • Explore together ways of reducing or changing the workload;
  • Ask what would make them more motivated or enthusiastic and then try as much as possible to make it happen;
  • Consider whether any additional or other resources would help (eg more admin support, a piece of software);
  • Provide additional training if appropriate;
  • Help your employee to understand their value and the contribution they make to both you, the team and the organisation as a whole;
  • Enforce reasonable working hours whilst encouraging breaks away from the work environment;
  • Encourage them to make use of any Employee Assistance Programme or to seek specialist professional advice where appropriate.

The right kind of support can help the employee to overcome burnout and return to their previous level of productivity and engagement.

  1. Reflect on your behavior

Sometimes managers can be partly responsible for staff burnout.  Take time to think about your management style.  Do you regularly send emails or call employees outside working hours?  Are you creating a culture of long working hours?  Is your workload so high that you don’t have the time to adequately support and help your team?

All these are great ways to help your employees to perform at their best and to promote a happy and healthy workplace and culture


Crispin Rhodes are running a two-day Mental Health First Aid Course in association with Mental Health First Aid England on 3rd and 4th October at their office in Milton Keynes – for tickets:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mental-health-first-aid-two-day-course-tickets-70739382397.