Suffering from Burnout? There's Hope if You Lean In


"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." Dale Carnegie

For the past several months I've been involved in a project with three of the top thought leaders in the area of burnout, engagement, and transformation in the healthcare environment. While we all have quite different approaches to the topic, we all agree on one core fact: this work, if it is to have a lasting and meaningful impact, has to start deep within the individual. The process happens from the inside-out: the individual transforms the team and teams transform the organization. Policies and programs alone will never fix burnout.

Pulling Back

As I've worked with healthcare professionals around the world, I've seen plenty of people pull back when they have encountered challenging times. There are three levels of pulling back, and each has an exponentially more negative impact.

  • PASSIVELY ENGAGED: "I'm just here for the paycheck. I just want to get my charts done so I can go home."
  • PASSIVELY DISENGAGED: "I don't like working here. It's not a good place. They don't treat me right. I'm looking for something else."
  • ACTIVELY DISENGAGED: "I'm going to teach these guys a lesson. They owe me, and I'm going to take what I can get because I deserve it!"

In the United States, the ACTIVELY DISENGAGED make up 18% of the general workforce. They take on the role of the occult (or not) terrorist. They are happy to bring down as many people as they can in the process. Their infectious mindset is more contagious than tuberculosis.

The PASSIVELY DISENGAGED and the PASSIVELY ENGAGED do more damage and cost the organization more.

Leaning in

One might anticipate that "leaning in" would be described as the mirror image of the three types listed above. However, it is fundamentally different.

  • ACTIVELY ENGAGED: "I like my job, and I'm eager to do whatever they ask me to do."
  • INVESTED: "I have skin in the game, and I care about the outcome. I will do whatever I can to help my team be successful, and I don't care who gets the credit.
  • DEVOTED: "I own this. If it doesn't turn out right, it's my fault. I won't give up. There's no such thing as failure, only feedback."

Moving forward

If we are going to improve our harmful healthcare environment, we will need a good number of professionals who are willing to lean in, become engaged, become invested, and choose to be devoted. Next week will take a closer look at what that means.

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