Executive Suite: How to Prevent Burnout

Considering the magnitude of the challenges and demands of life in the Executive Suite, it is not surprising that for many it is often hard to persist in a healthy fashion. Among decision makers in general, no matter the level, professionals whose job it is to encounter and resolve problems often experience what is called burnout.

Burnout is the end point of cumulative physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual fatigue. It comes from giving when there is no more to give. The physical symptoms of burnout may include constant fatigue, backaches, and headaches. Emotionally, one stops caring, and begins to perform the functions of urban ministry as just that—functions rather than caring service. A lack of optimism, along with a sense of loneliness and isolation set in.

Burnout is the result of a number of things. First there is feeling that everything is cyclical rather than progressive. There is the feeling that one is on a treadmill with little being accomplished. Summer becomes autumn, autumn becomes winter, winter becomes spring, and spring becomes summer. The problems remain the same and the company continues to struggle. In fact, it seems that for every problem addressed there are four more with which to deal.

There is the irregularity of the work schedule. For many, there is no nine-to-five quality about life in the Executive Suite. Tasks are almost never as brief as they are expected to be. What looks like it should take a half hour often stretches into a half day or more.


Antidotes to Burnout

There are four ways to avoid burnout.

• The first is having a reason for what you are doing that goes beyond making money. That can be anything. It can mean a focus on providing good employment opportunities for worthy people. It can mean dedicating a portion of your or the company’s revenue to a worthy charitable cause. It can mean sponsoring or underwriting a community initiative.

Realizing you have to make a buck and making a few is often not enough. The calling is to something larger than yourself or your P&L statement. The book “The Purpose Driven Life” did not remain perched atop the bestseller list for more than 100 weeks for no reason at all. Make your work truly purpose-driven.

• Second, find a base of support—someone you can track with as you go through the challenges of running a graphic arts organization. There is a need for support and reinforcement from others who genuinely understand the nature of the executive crucible. People you connect with may not be running a printing company. They may be in charge of a school, a community organization, a church, or a business. Connect with as many people as you can. The positive ones can be wonderful reality checks and sanity preservers, as you can be to them. When the energy fire burns low, there is a special need for support—a safe haven for blowing off steam and letting out frustration and disappointment.

• A third factor involves taking time for individual development. It is important to engage in activities that provide a sense of progress, satisfaction, and accomplishment. These may be writing, teaching in a community college, learning a skill, or pursuing a degree. Most people have a favorite avocation or second career they would like to pursue. Rather than time vampires, these second interests serve as necessary pitstops.

One leader spoke of his “toys”, referring to his proclivity to teach courses, give speeches, start new programs, etc. Acknowledging that he is probably criticized for spreading himself a bit thin because of them, he stated that he would never have been able to make it in his executive position without these very constructive diversions.

• The fourth factor involves getting away. The heat and concrete, the pains and the problems, the noises and the nuisances, and the pace and the pressure of life in the Executive Suite have a wearing effect. Guard your days off.

I remember one NYC print owner who told his people not to call him when he was out unless there was “a fire or a flood.” Knowing the phone would not ring and that he could shut out the pressure was immensely therapeutic.


Dr. David Claerbaut has spent more than 25 years consulting in the graphic arts industry. You can reach him directly at 702-354-7000 or email him at drdavid@fcbb.com. Learn more at www.MyPRINTResource.com/10746916.