“An unexamined life is not worth living” –Socrates
Dear readers, last week I examined some operational risk symptoms that are likely to affect a bank’s bottom line if not detected early by managers. Some of these are hidden and best known only to the sufferers. The fact that WHO has even identified burnout as a symptom on the occupational level that can affect a person’s productivity shows that this people risk should not be taken lightly by Human Resource specialists. Let us look at what some anonymous sufferers during the wake-up call, described their symptoms of burnout to be like:
Some Hidden signs of burnout
Sometimes people think they are working but in actual fact, they are just going through the motions. It becomes dangerous when they reach a critical time, it has to be addressed before it becomes too late. Burnout can come in various forms: physical, relationship with others on the professional front, and emotional signs on the job.
- Regular aches and pains: Only God knows the source. Dear manager, beware of staff who always complain of one pain or other in several parts of the body. Today it is headache, tomorrow neck, low back pain, knees, and indeed every part of the body. Check the person’s age. It could be due to pregnancy, menopause, andropause, etc. you are not a doctor, but call the person quietly and have a chat. It could even be psychological. Once it happens on the job, you have to assist. Sometimes an hourly break to stretch out for 5 to 10 minutes may relieve the stress. Show that you care.
- Inability to concentrate and making careless mistakes: Dear manager, do you identify this with a staff? Is he or she absent-minded during work or even at meetings? Does he/she send incoherent messages on the group whatsup? Official reports may look empty of ideas showing lack of focus. Does not appreciate the contents of circulars and email messages. Some may be stupid, careless mistakes that lead to minor irritations such as being locked out, leaving personal items in a taxicab, careless driving and scratching the car or getting the date wrong for an important official event.
- Customers’ appointments may be either forgotten or not attended to: This is a big no. no! Once you hear of such complaints, take a serious look and see if you can recommend some leave of absence. The fact that the customer has complained is even a gift to the bank because the silent ones just leave quietly to another bank!
- Constant Lateness to Work: Without being too nosy, this phenomenon can lead to breakdown of discipline. Others are watching. There are times that managers have to sit down with the “offender” to know the underlying cause of re-current lateness. Perhaps there are problems at home. Sometimes one has to refer the staff to a mentor on the job for counselling.
- Late submission of reports: Please check the sources for the reports that should be submitted to you. Is the data readily available and are the sources reliable? Are the requisite training and tools available for easy assimilation and combination for a meaningful report? Perhaps the report has some incriminating facts that will result in the staff being penalized on the job. Some delays may be strategic.
- Loss of “Steam”: Have you noticed that a staff member has become withdrawn, a previously sanguine personality now becoming melancholic, and not interested in anything around him or herself. Quiet at meetings and not ready to recommend any new ideas. This is one big sign of burnout developing. Check yourself and your managerial style. Are you becoming autocratic and nor ready to be a listener. Perhaps you do not have an open-door policy and not easily approachable. Regular reviews with your team is necessary.
- Taking Everything Personally: When you get tired of the work, any new directive is taken personally. Sometimes one feels the directive is personally directed at them. Such people feel easily challenged or sometimes feel like they are failures. They even attempt to quit the job. Set the facts straight and remind them that quitters never win and winners never quit. One should not quit the job due to burnout. Other options should be made available to them. Don’t think it is good riddance.
- Regular signs of exhaustion: Sometimes exhaustion is only in the mind. Despite adequate sleep, burnout staff just go through the motions and say “yes Sir” without understanding the instructions given. Lack-luster results typify their mood. Sometimes they are placed in a wrong role on the job. Some staff are not front-office type, as you see them pour their frustrations on innocent customers. A continuation of this practice spells doom for your bank. Some staff prefer to excel in back-office roles or more analytical duties like credit analysis. A smiling, pleasant and customer-friendly staff should always remain focused on the customers’ needs first and not look moody and morose. Customers are easily repelled by these signs. Encourage moody staff to take intermittent breaks. Sometimes you can join them in the staff restaurant or pantry and strike a chat. You never know how they will respond.
- Dizziness and headaches: This is an extract from a true story which is quite common
***“In March of this year I was hospitalized with high blood pressure and AFIB. For years I had been having symptoms: dizziness, headaches, and a bit of brain fuzziness. But I related it to being tired from my full-time job as a technical communicator and three part-time jobs as an adjunct college instructor. I told myself that I was building a nest egg for myself. However, what I really built was medical problems. Now I am on medication, trying to lose weight (did I mention I developed bad eating habits because of the overworking?), and cutting back on my work priorities.”
****Source: “Thrive Global”, Founded and led by Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global is a health, well-being and productivity company aimed at redefining the way we work and live****.
- Bad Eating Habits: In customer facing areas, emphasis is on ensuring that the front is not deserted. Front office staff seem to find themselves at the perpetual mercy of clients, and on a very busy day, they find themselves unable to leave for breaks and lunch. You will find such people indulging in taking heavy breakfasts and skipping lunch. The inevitable happens. Yes, bankers are known to have some bad eating habits. Grab a burgher, sandwich, soft fizzy drinks, pizza, junk foods galore. By the time they come to themselves, they are downing several prescription drugs down their throat due to indigestion, ulcer and what have you. Inadequate staffing levels are rife, but the irony is that managers cannot afford to employ more hands since the patronage of traditional banking is dwindling due to online banking.
- Frequent head colds: This another extract from Thrive Global: “The wake-up call that worked for me was a heart attack when I was 28. For 12 days I felt unwell and when I finally went to hospital I had a 100% blocked artery and killed 40% of my heart muscle. It nearly killed me. I’d missed all the signs leading up to that point — frequent head colds treated with antibiotics and Sudafed so I could jump on the plane and ultimately keep my high-pressure job, the bloating and digestion problems (the antibiotics killed my good bacteria), the fatigue and chronic stress from running on adrenaline and pushing my body were all signs to slow down. I was mentally drained, physically exhausted and emotionally dry. I lacked joy and it manifested in the ultimate physical disease which I can never undo. It’s a lesson I do not take for granted and now live my life more purposefully.” Bulk leaves are important here, not short excuse duties or leaves. High staff attrition rate whether due to death, incapacitation, resignation or dismissal is a high-end people risk that should be strictly monitored by Human Resource heads, operational risk heads or managers.
Let me pause here. My final edition will be next week. Let us share your feedback on email, facebook (alberta quarcoopome, linked-in and twitter. Sharing is caring.
TO BE CONTINUED
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations ethics and fraud.