4 ways to avoid change manager burnout
There are a lot of articles about “change saturation” in organizations – where staff are overwhelmed with the number of changes and the organization ceases to be effective. There’s another word for this: burnout.
A lot of people feel burnt out through change, and change managers are acutely aware of this. However, in a few recent conversations I’ve noticed that there is one individual they tend to ignore: themselves. If the change management resource on an initiative is constantly overwhelmed, they will not effectively deliver on change management strategies and activities, and the change initiative will suffer as a result.
So, for the sake of your change, spend a little time thinking about yourself. Below are four tips to help you avoid burnout as a change manager.
- Deliberately discuss your role with the project manager and/or sponsor.
Change managers seem especially vulnerable to having tasks delegated to them that are not change management-related (taking meeting minutes, copy editing emails, etc.). I think this is a symptom of people not understanding what change management actually is. Clarifying expectations around the value that you bring and the activities that you will undertake will help you to avoid being underutilized and having your to-do list bloated by administrative tasks.
- Be selective with the meetings you attend.
When you’re trying to devise stakeholder engagement strategies, it can be tempting to go to every single stakeholder meeting (or workshop, or training session, etc.). However, if you’re not careful, you can end up spending your whole week in meetings and the strategic planning portion of your job gets pushed to lunches, evenings and weekends – times when you’re tired and rushed. The work that you produce will be weaker, and your sentiment toward your job will take a nosedive. Consider the value you will both provide to and derive from a meeting before you hit “attend.”
- Remember: it’s not you, it’s the change…
Sometimes stakeholders make a quick leap from “I don’t like this change” to “I don’t like this change manager.” People you have never met before may take their frustration out on you and be rude to you. Take a step back and look at their big picture – their feelings are targeted toward the change, not you personally.
- …But also remember that you are not a punching bag.
It’s important to know when to bite your tongue, but also know when to call someone out on their bad behaviour. Exercise some tact (don’t publicly shame them), but do be assertive about the fact that their treatment of you is inappropriate.
To avoid burnout, change manager need to redirect some of their excellent skills toward themselves. Analyse their own needs, communicate their expectations and reinforce appropriate behaviour.