Where does the ‘giving it up for the team’ end and the focusing on the employee begin?
Any person who has spent time in the training world knows of the issue of instructor burnout. After a while of teaching the same things or the same groups, an instructor can begin to suffer burnout. They lose interest in the subject, they grow forgetful, and begin to be annoyed by the field they once loved. Aware training managers try to combat this by varying assignment, having the instructor develop new and interesting topics, or work to grow the employee into the next level of their career. Those managers or companies who don’t see a turnover in instructors or see a great suffering in their instructional workforce. Here are two stories illustrating both sides of burnout.
Austin was an experienced instructor who had worked in all aspects of the training industry. He was hired at the company to teach their desktop and technical curriculum, and help resuscitate the department to one of prominence within the company. He worked hard to create, innovate, and promote the department’s offerings, becoming the go-to person for training needs within the two curricula. He enjoyed the challenge of creation, of renewal, and of being part of the new team.
As much as he enjoyed it, three years into the position, he saw that he was beginning to be burned out. There wasn’t much new to be created within the two curricula, there were other rollouts, but they were pretty much the same in terms of procedural and process oriented training, and there wasn’t much innovation within the other curricula that he was allowed to do.
Austin knew he couldn’t wait for someone else to notice this, so he began to work to move himself away from the technical and desktop and into other areas. He volunteered to teach classes that another instructor was supposed to teach, but could not. He proposed new classes to his manager that could be developed and taught. He even developed courses to teach without prior consultation. He talked with his manager about a new position description that would have him teach more business skills classes. He even talked about getting into the new wellness courses which the department was venturing into.
In each case, his manager’s answer was the same: no. No, the other instructor would not even consider teaching a few of your classes so you could teach a few of hers. No, wellness was too much of a stretch for you, keep with what you know. No, each course you propose isn’t good (though she would later give it to the other instructor to develop). No, we need you teaching exactly what you are teaching. The assumption by Austin? The manager doesn’t care about him and wants to chew him up and spit him out. With each class, he was becoming more and more burned out, and no one cared.
Austin was soon transferred under a new manager, one who saw that teaching the same thing over and over again would cause burnout even in the best of instructors. She even said she didn’t know how Austin did it for three years. To combat this, while still keeping a desktop curriculum going, she offered to teach a few of Austin’s classes while asking Austin to teach some of the classes that she would normally teach. When an opportunity came along to develop a new class in another curriculum, she asked Austin if he wanted to give it a try. Soon, Austin had the confidence to propose some classes to his manager that he would like to develop and saw a need for. He relished the opportunity to teach these classes and gave them attention to see that they were taught properly, asking for feedback, and making continuous improvements. Just knowing he had the opportunity to teach these reduced the burnout factor with Austin. While not a new lease on life, at least he did not dread going into work each day.
The difference between the two managers is clear. One thought only of herself, while the other thought of Austin. The first manager could not be concerned if Austin was burned out, as long as she or her other instructor didn’t have to delve into teaching a curriculum that she found unsavory. By her treatment of Austin, I would speculate that there was some personal animosity with her instructor as well, which is another fault the first manager had. She let her personal feeling interfere with her judgement of the situation.
The second manager saw that a valuable resource to her, Austin, would need to grow and develop if he were to stay with the company. He needed variety to stay fresh and develop. She may not have liked to teach desktop skills, but she did, so Austin could get a break. Austin may not have been as proficient in his business skill training, but he was given the opportunity. In short, she thought of her employee first, not her own needs. Ironically, by doing this, she served her own needs well, by retaining a talented member of her staff.
Often this blog has asked who a manager is in their role for…themselves or their employees. If the manager is in it strictly for themselves, as evidenced by their behavior, don’t expect to have a staff that is willing to go to new heights. Rather, they will spend extra time looking out for themselves because their manager isn’t. A manager who does go that extra mile for their staff is one who has a staff who will do anything for the team, because they know the leader of the team is out there for them. The investment either manager makes will come back to them ten fold, whether that is positive or negative. Doesn’t it make sense for that return to be positive?
Or can your ego not get out of the way?