Managing stress and burn-out in bank staff (2)


“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****.

Yes, bankers are known to have some bad eating habits due to the long hours with inadequate time for eating: Grab a burgher, sandwich, soft fizzy drinks, pizza, junk foods galore. By the time you realize you are downing several prescription drugs down your throat due to indigestion, ulcer and  Bulk leaves are important here, not short excuse duties or leaves.



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.


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Banks are laying off workers across the globe as revenue declines throughout the sector. According to reports, banks have announced nearly 60,000 job cuts so far this year, with most of the layoffs happening in Europe, especially in Germany. According to year-to-date company filings and labor union disclosures compiled by Bloomberg, banks have announced that they are cutting 58,200 jobs so far this year. The biggest layoffs are in Europe, where 52,424 jobs, or 90% of the total layoffs, are being slashed, as the European banking sector continues to struggle with profitability. Moreover, 2,769 workers in North America are being let go, as are 2,487 in the Middle East and Africa and 513 in the Asia Pacific region.

The European banking sector has long faced calls for consolidation as banks struggle to generate profits. Two leading German banks — Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank — have attempted a merger, but it fell through early this year, resulting in the pair independently announcing major layoffs.

At the top of the downsize list is Deutsche Bank, which began laying off 18,000 workers in July as part of an $8.3 billion overhaul. According to reports, Germany’s largest bank plans to exit its equities sales and trading business as well as its fixed-income business, but will retain a small equity capital markets business. The bank had 91,737 employees at the end of 2018, almost 6,000 fewer than the previous year. The layoffs would shrink its workforce to roughly 74,000 employees by 2022. Deutsche Bank is also dealing with German authorities probing for information about the relation of its Frankfurt headquarters to Danske Bank, which is currently at the center of a massive money-laundering scandal.

Domestic rival Commerzbank, with about 1,000 branches and offices in almost 50 countries, is also downsizing. The German government is a major shareholder of this bank. Commerzbank announced last week a plan to lay off 4,300 of its 49,000 employees in some areas, but will add 2,000 jobs in “strategic areas.” A fifth of its branches will also be closed down in a strategy overhaul.

One of the largest privately owned banks in Russia, Alfa Bank, is also reducing its workforce. The bank currently employs more than 24,000 workers. CEO Vladimir Verkhoshinsky reportedly said that 3,000 employees, or 12% of the bank’s workforce, will be laid off by the end of the year. This number adds to the 2,000 workers who left the bank during the first quarter. According to reports, the layoffs are mainly due to the bank’s decision to migrate from providing loans in brick-and-mortar stores to offering them online.

France’s third-largest bank, Societe Generale, has also revealed its plans to cut 1,600 jobs, mainly at its corporate and investment banking arm. The bank, which employs 18,000 people in 30 countries, also said in April that it would cut 750 jobs in France.

Other banks that are downsizing include Citigroup, which revealed in July its plans to lay off hundreds of people. BNP Paribas reached an agreement with unions in March to cut as many as 2,500 jobs at its Belgian retail banking unit by 2021. The bank employs 13,000 people in Belgium. Further, the data compiled by Bloomberg shows that the National Bank of Greece is laying off 1,700 workers.

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