The Burnout

By: David Stollman

Burnout isn’t caused by how much work you do, it’s caused by how much work you look around… and see others NOT doing!

There are lots of suggestions on how to recharge, and bounce back from burnout. But, maybe we should talk more about preventing it in the first place. The start of the semester is a great time for that conversation. Eyes are bright, hopes are big for the upcoming year. What will you accomplish in your leadership position?

“Good fences make good neighbors.” Clear lines allow for clear expectations of areas of responsibility. A fence says that is your lawn, and this mine. That grass is your responsibility, and this is mine. Clarity on responsibility is the first part.

Clarity on roles is next. It is easy to pick on landlords. But, good landlords make it easier to be a good tenant with a clear lease. A lease is a contract that makes it clear what you can, cannot, and must do. Dogs are not allowed but fish are. Fixing the washing machine is my responsibility, changing a lightbulb is yours. Clear roles on who is to do what doesn’t allow for confusion or negativity. You might think you’re a good tenant because I pay rent on time but I might think you’re not because you leave trash in the hall.

Clarity on “good” and “bad” is important in all relationships where there are expectations to be met. This is no different than in any student organization. Is someone a bad member of your club because they only show up to one event per year? Are they a good sorority sister if all they do is pay dues? Or, is more required? Clear definitions of “good” and “poor” standing is great to have in your by-laws when they can be measured objectively. It isn’t a code of conduct that is an exemplification of your values and subjective.

Think about the member that is so lazy they wouldn’t roll over if they were on fire. Now imagine them telling everyone what a great member they are. You know better. But, without a clear definition… maybe they genuinely don’t.

Each semester there should be a membership agreement that’s actually signed by each member. Detail specific actions to remain in “good standing” without ambiguity. The membership agreement should serve as a reminder of the basics to which all members agree to do with clear consequences for failure. Attend 80% of meetings or you can’t vote. Simple. The key is to list reasonable expectations that tie directly to the organization’s mission and values. That way I can’t think you are a bad member just because you’re not doing as much as I am so long as you’re clearly meeting your responsibilities. Members who are not pulling their weight can be appropriately held to account for their failings. And, it’s also clear who is going far and above the basic expectations and worthy of extra gratitude.

As a leader I might get tired from time to time from my hard work, but I won’t burn out because I know everyone is meeting their basic responsibilities. No dead weight and no burnout when you set clear roles and responsibilities right from the start.