|Too high expectations, short deadlines and consequently high pressure are more than ever part of our business everyday life in the 21st century, and at the same time, those are the most common causes of the burnout syndrome. If you have a job where you are chronically under stress and you do not have adequate mechanisms to manage stress levels, unfortunately you can easily experience a burnout.
This expression was first used by a psychologist Herbert Freudenberger more than forty years ago, and he described it as a condition of mental and physical exhaustion caused by professional life. The subject of Freudenberger’s analysis were ‘helping’ professions – such as nurses and doctors because they directly work with people where those relationships can sometimes be extremely difficult and often emotionally demanding (the spiritual suffering of a patient or death). Models by which we live today and do business, as well as challenges that are placed before employees are harder than ever, so the burnout syndrome is carried over to all other professions.
Recently burnout was recognized as a syndrome from the medical point of view (by the World Health Organization) since a growing number of employees, especially young people, suffer from it. Burnout is accompanied by physical and psychological symptoms, and it differs from simple fatigue and exhaustion.
Burnout is a body’s reaction to a long-term exposure to stress that can be caused by work tasks (more precisely by the amount of work that is almost impossible to complete within the predetermined deadlines and overtime as its result), but also relations between colleagues and neglecting our own needs. The culture ‘24/7 availability’ to our colleagues and clients, as well as the habit of eating lunch at the working desk while we fill in tables or respond to emails, contributed to the feeling of burnout that majority of employees claim to have experienced at least once during their working life. Gallup study shows that two-thirds of currently full-time employed Americans have experienced burnout, mostly by people in their twenties and thirties.
Due to swift pace of life in big cities that are more and more numerous each day and due to different values than fifty years ago, a growing number of people are participating in the race where we push ourselves to achieve better results, which resulted in this modern-day disease being more and more frequent.
The symptoms of burnout seem to be easily noticeable – it is characterized by a lack of enthusiasm and motivation for work. Activities that you once performed devotedly and with ease, can become strenuous both mentally (tension, feeling helpless, irritation) and physical (fatigue, malaise, pain) as a result of burnout. However, similar symptoms can occur in some other mental conditions (e.g. depression), so you should be careful and seek professional help and support.
Frustration and exhaustion caused by the burnout can severely endanger your work, personal relationships, as well as your health. This condition leads to a decrease in immunity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
It may sound trivial, but experts say that taking a break from work is the key to overcoming this syndrome. Besides, you need to change your life and business habits, so here are some ways to prevent burnout:
However, if you feel burned out by overwork, it is best to seek professional help, and remember that even people who love their job a lot and enjoy it immensely experience burnout.
Throughout life, our priorities change, but to be successful in all fields and to be generally satisfied in life, our physical and mental health must always come first.
Some companies apply the Employees Assistance Program through which the burnout theme can be covered through professional support. See here which kinds of counseling such a program can support.
During job search and the selection process, it is often the case that candidates are left confused after an interview because of unresolved concerns, or they realise there are questions they should have asked, but they forgot. Also, there are often questions like “what should and what shouldn’t be asked on an interview” that make the whole situation even more complicated.
In order to simplify the whole story, we will say the following – there are no questions that you should not ask, maybe just those that are not the best ones for the first round of interviews. But let’s look at the important ones that you need to ask, and which are perfectly okay to ask.
More details about the company
This is a question that is generally asked by interviewers to see if you have researched in more details about the company, and it can also show your motivation for the company or position. However, sometimes you may not find many details on a website of a company itself that may be of interest to you or that may be important to you. In such a situation, it is perfectly okay to ask for company details (company size, team structure, location, company culture, etc.)
Tasks and the team
Your future responsibilities are mainly described in a job ad that was posted, and we strongly advise you to read it in detail as your interviewer will surely ask you further about your potential responsibilities and how you understand them. On the other hand, if an ad was not detailed enough, you may have some concerns about the job itself. In these situations, it is quite fair to ask for an additional explanation so that you have all the information you need, and also to know if that job is really what interests you.
Also, information about your future team (if any) can be of great importance to you. What will be your future team, whether it consists of juniors or seniors, and how your cooperation with them will look like.
This is one of the questions that candidates often forget to ask, and it can significantly influence further motivation. Be sure to check your working hours, and whether you work on weekends. Also, having shifts or on-call duties in certain positions can be crucial when deciding on a job.
Most of the selection processes consist of several different rounds, and the first step is mostly talking to HR. After that, the process may vary, and the next interview may be with a hiring manager, or with top management, a director, etc. Also, be prepared to do different tests during the process: case study, aptitude test, knowledge test, presentations, etc. In this case, it is essential to be informed about what the test is about, what is its importance during the process, whether it is an elimination step, and what the test will look like.
This is often the thing that interests candidates the most and the one they ask the most about. However, in most situations, it is unfortunately not possible to find out the salary at the very beginning of the process. The interlocutor will mostly ask you in the first round what are your financial expectations and what financial package you would be happy with. While they may not be able to tell you the exact salary at the time, you can always ask them if your expectations fit into the company’s financial budget for the position, as well as pointing out that you are ready to discuss it in more detail in the following rounds.
These are just some of the most common concerns that candidates face. However, this does not mean that all other issues are not welcome or undesirable.
Remember that you will be doing a specific job on a day-to-day basis, at the company you have selected with the team you should fit into, so anything that can help you better understand what is waiting for you – feel free to ask.
There are some topics that should not be discussed during the job interview. Topics such as religion, sexual orientation, nationality, race, political beliefs and other very personal topics should not be the subject of interest of your prospective employer. The reason for this is to protect candidates from discrimination.
Discrimination is unequal treatment of a person because of their personal attribute, which results in inequality in their exercise of rights. Due to personal views and beliefs of an interviewer, candidates may be discriminated based on information that is not related to their knowledge and abilities for the job.
In addition to the topics previously mentioned, issues related to housing and family status are not welcome on the job interview because they are not relevant to the selection process.
Also, questions about marital status, children and pregnancy are not a suitable topic for job interviews.
Another topic that is very sensitive and that your prospective employer should not be aware of is your current salary. Your salary is a matter that should be kept confidential and solely between you and your employer. During a job interview, instead of sharing your current earnings information, talk about your expected salary.
However, before you conclude that a question has been asked with an intention to discriminate you on a personal basis, try to make sure of the interviewer’s intent. It can sometimes be that a person on the other side of a table is inexperienced or even unaware of the discriminatory nature of the questions they ask. People involved in the selection of employees should be aware of the processes and procedures of the selection process, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Also, what can be a discriminatory issue for one job may not be for another profession. For example, a question of whether you are a smoker or not is not as relevant for the job of a programmer as it is for the babysitting job.
General Data Protection Regulation (also known as GDPR) prohibits collection and processing of personal data that is not relevant for the business of the company, in this case, the selection process – so be careful not to give too personal statements in the pre-selection questionnaires.
If you find that there is no discriminatory intent behind the question or that the question is asked inadvertently, politely give a brief answer and navigate the topic toward your previous work achievements and other accomplishments that qualify you for the job.
If, however, you happen to be unjustifiably asked a question that does not relate to your work experience and skills, try to subtly point out to the recruiter that some other things are more relevant for the job itself. Remember that you are also in a position to choose, so be free to judge whether you want to work in such a work environment based on the questions and the entire interviewing experience.
When a manager does not trust the capacities of his team, they begin to take over the responsibilities that should be delegated. Or they need to check each step that each team member takes. Hence, slowly, they become overwhelmed with tasks to the extent that they do not physically achieve to do the key things in their work or become a bottleneck for decision-making. The job is suffering; the projects are delayed, the stress increases. At this point, there are two paths micromanagers take:
- They either get back to their team members and re-delegate. These are usually tasks that do not have important implications for the job.
- The second approach is to understand that the team they are working with are simply not capable, have no competences to work and make the definitive decision to replace them with more capable people as soon as possible. After that, they continue to do things the same old way.
If employees recognise that their manager has a controlling leadership style and find a way to cope with it, some results in the team may also come in the short term. In the long run, continuous interference in the work process leads to a decline in the productivity of the team primarily because this leadership style affects the motivation of work directly.
The micromanagerial approach mostly characterises people who are perfectionists and want to do the job in the best possible way. These are usually highly responsible people who have done a lot of work in their career to achieve results. Most often, they are excellent specialists in their area of expertise that really achieve good results. Also, they are people who have a dose of fear that poor results will lead to extremely bad consequences and perceive this outcome as catastrophic. It is as if a wrong decision, or an error in analysis, will cause their superiors to evaluate them as incompetent, which is not an option for them at all. And so, as soon as a task seems demanding, a micromanager decides that it will be better to do it themselves than waste time on corrections, experience stress while watching their colleagues approaching the task in a wrong way, and, God forbid, their superiors will think they are irresponsible by not being informed during each step and every detail of the task.
Unfortunately, when someone has predispositions for this work approach, it is very difficult to come out of the distrust they have towards others. Even when they bring someone they consider competent into the team, there is a possibility that they will feel threatened and then the situation can get even worse. Then they will decide not to delegate out of fear that they might be perceived as incompetent, which is the worst punishment for such people.
If this behaviour occurs during the first leadership role in one’s career, there is a strong chance that it will be overcome. People with developed emotional intelligence see that their leadership style affects employees, and they work on a personal change to be better leaders. The key thing is to realise that a management role implies only mutual results, not a single promotion at the expense of others, nor the takeover of other people’s merit. A good manager puts their employees first and gives them development opportunities through delegating more demanding tasks. Mistakes are a precondition for further development. Without them, no one would learn how to do something better or how to behave in different circumstances. Until we see the result of our decision, we cannot be sure that it was the right one – no one was born smart but gained their knowledge through attempts and the feedback of others.
If you have recognised some of the micromanagerial characteristics in yourself, or with your superior, do not despair. The fact that such behaviour exists in the organisation is a much more serious problem for the company because that means that there is a high probability that blame culture reins there and it is important who is the culprit, and not how the problem will be resolved. Of course, if you feel that the atmosphere is too toxic and that you do not actually have opportunities for personal development, you might better look for another job. Because it takes time for a change to take place, and above all, there has to be a willingness for it. And if the company management lacks emotional intelligence, then pointing fingers and taking credits for other people’s merit is likely to retain for a while, that is, until the leadership position has been taken by someone who worked on their own personal development, learned through their own and other people’s mistakes, and accepted the fact that there is no progress without the courage to try and make mistakes.
Many candidates are not aware that an introductory question “What do you know about our company?” is actually trickier than a lot of others that are suspected to be. It is no secret that employers are flattered when candidates are interested in working at their company. However, this is not the only reason why an answer to this question is important for your adequate representation during an interview. Candidates who briefly describe the business of a company as a response to this question, mention an approximate number of employees and countries in which the company operates, and ideally some specificity about the company itself (awards they received, impressions of their users or articles in which the company is mentioned) will make a good impression even before they start talking about themselves and their work experience. Through this answer, a candidate shows the ability to analyse a large amount of information, conciseness in presentation, responsibility in preparation for an interview, and above all, motivation for a specific role and a particular company.
Describe the ideal company you would like to work in
Before you start looking for a job, think about what kind of company would you like to work for. Striving for perfection is not so practical, but defining a desirable work environment in which you would enjoy working can be helpful while choosing a suitable job ad you want to apply for.
Consider the following:
- Which area of business are you most interested in?
- Do you prefer to work in a smaller or larger team?
- What are your personal values?
- Do you prefer procedures or freedom at work?
- What are other criteria personally important to you while assessing and selecting an employer of choice?
No matter how much you need this job, it is superfluous to invest your time in a job application and then an interview meeting at a company with a location that does not suit you or in a company that requires from you to work in a shift that is not suitable for you. While researching, you might get a sense of a company’s work environment so you could decide if it seems appropriate and stimulating for you.
Collect as much information as possible before applying
Inform yourself about:
- what they do, what industry they operate in and what services or products they provide;
- their clients – whether they are business or private users;
- headquarters and countries in which they have offices;
- their brand – whether it is more corporate, formal or cheerful, informal as it can say a lot about their communication style or dress code of the company;
- awards and/or certificates the company has, etc.
You should do this not only to make a good impression and present yourself as a fit but for your own sake. The selection process is a two-way street, and as employers learn about you through your CV, you should also be informed about relevant details about the company, even before you submit your application.
Where can I find information about a company?
The most formal assessment can be done through the website of the Business Registers Agency, where you can find all the important information about the company, but in the first place, it will help you confirm its validity.
Knowing somebody who already works at that company is an excellent source of information, but you have to be lucky for this one. Be sure to ask your acquaintances and friends if they know anyone who works at that company. You will be surprised how small this world is and how easily you can get in direct contact with a person who works at that company and who can give you first-hand information, but keep in mind that the employee’s impression is still very personal and that it may not be entirely objective.
There are several channels on the Internet through which you can get the information you want:
- Job posting portals – Portals such as Glassdoor provide insight into the impressions of current employees as well as those who have left the company. Unfortunately, people who are dissatisfied leave comments on the internet more often than those who are satisfied, so consider that when evaluating. Indeed, it is good to know what employees resent to their management before engaging in collaboration.
- Company Website – After reading in detail about the company’s activities and services or products, invest additional time to read “About Us” or “Our Team” pages, where you can learn more about employees. The ideal situation is when the company publicly mentions their values and causes that support because it will be easier for you to discover if they are a match to your personal values.
- Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) – On social networks, companies often write in a slightly more informal manner about their day-to-day activities and events, so you can gain significant insight into the culture, the way they communicate and the atmosphere.
While it is one of the most important factors, salary should by no means be the only reason why you are motivated to work in a company. Short term, a higher salary can be a major incentive, but later on, it always turns out that if you are doing a job that is not fulfilling, in an environment that is unpleasant or is not encouraging you to progress, so it is not a good choice in the long run.
Take an opportunity to create an image of the company as a future employer in advance, and if you like their culture and values, you will inevitably show a genuine desire on the interview and thus gain the sympathy of the employer and place yourself among the top candidates.