Fill Employees’ “Buckets” to Wash Away Burnout

baby in bucket 2

Mangers: It is possible to wash away burnout. Fill your employees’ buckets.

Your comments made a difference today.

A customer mentioned how well you listen, and I often hear great things about you.

We appreciate the extra hours you put in.

Employees need to hear praise. In fact, according to the US Department of Labor, “the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they do not feel appreciated” (Rath and Clifton).

In today’s pandemic climate, burnout can feel like the new normal. In Gallup’s book, How Full is Your Bucket, Tom Rath and Don Clifton explore the benefits of giving specific and meaningful praise, and the authors offer five strategies everyone can start implementing today.

The Reality of Burnout

For many, working from home can blur the boundary between work and home life.  A recent Microsoft study reveals that the average American’s workweek has gotten 10% longer during the pandemic (Nature Human Behavior). Workers feel they no longer have adequate separation from work, resulting in burnout.  Physical symptoms of burnout include anxiety, sleep problems, heart issues and stomachaches (Skimm).

Providing targeted praise by “filling buckets” may mitigate some feelings of burnout. “Studies show that organizational leaders who share positive emotions have workgroups with a more positive mood, enhanced job satisfaction, greater engagement, and improved group performance” (Rath and Clifton).  Praise should be given as specific and individualized for it to be most effective.

Your Daily Choice: Fill or Empty “Buckets”

In their book, Rath and Clifton say that each employee has a choice every day to fill or empty the “buckets” of those around them. Dipping from buckets through negative talk and complaining comes at a high cost. In fact, employees who are overly negative harm companies so much that it is better if they did not show up to work at all: “Where productivity is concerned, it would be better for organizations if people who are overly negative stayed home” (Rath and Clifton).  One or two employees can scare off customers and poison an entire workforce.

Five Bucket-Filling Strategies

Rath and Clifton present five bucket-filling strategies that can be applied to both life and the workforce:

  • Strategy 1: Prevent Bucket Dipping: Where do you see negative influences in your life and work and what can you do to prevent these?  It may be as simple as looking in the mirror to be more aware of your own influence on others.  Or you may need to approach someone else who seems to spread discontent.
  • Strategy 2: Shine a Light on What is Right. Rath and Clifton give an illustration using marriage to explain this strategy. They say to focus on what your spouse does right and what you like about him/ her and see if bucket filling causes things to change.  John Gottman’s research on marriage finds that “marriages are significantly more likely to succeed when the couple’s interactions are near that 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative” (Rath and Clifton).
  • Strategy 3: Make Best Friends: People yearn to have meaningful connections with others and work is no exception. “People with best friends at work have better safety records, receive higher customer satisfaction scores, and increase workplace productivity” (Rath and Clifton).  They recommend taking a personal interest in employees by listening and telling people how important they are to you.
  • Strategy 4: Give Unexpectedly: This can be the gift of a compliment or a physical gift. It does not need to be large or expensive but should be unexpected. “According to a Gallup Poll, the vast majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected” (Rath and Clifton).
  • Strategy 5: Reverse the Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Putting others before yourself has an amazing way of not only filling the bucket of the other person but also making yourself feel much better.

Praise doesn’t cost anything to give and takes very little time, yet so many managers fail to do this on a regular basis.  Or, the praise given is so generic, it doesn’t really matter to employees.

Why is this?  Perhaps managers think praise is not necessary, or perhaps they simply don’t know how to give genuine, relevant praise.

We at Artemis Consultants want our audience to know that you are important to us.  We appreciate those who rely on our services to recruit top talent or find a new role in their own career.

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