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How to Handle the Burnout of a Top Performer

Written by Tom Gimbel, Founder and CEO, LaSalle Network

A top performer may go 100 miles per hour, but they can’t sustain that without hitting a hurdle at some point. When a car is running at 100 miles an hour, it’s bound to have a breakdown. It’s unsustainable to push that hard, that fast 24/7. So, when a top performer burns out, it’s important that managers take note and consider the following tips to help them become re-energized.

Treat them. If an employee is burned out, that typically means they’re overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted. Take them out for dinner or drinks and level with them personally. Get them out of the office to do something fun, whether that’s going to play golf, taking a painting class or going to a museum. Doing things unrelated to work can help relieve stress and anxiety and help them feel re-energized.

Know when to push them, and when to send them home. If you know your staff, you know what they need. You know when you can give them a kick in the behind, and when you need to send them home at noon. If it’s the latter, don’t be afraid to do that. It shows them you appreciate them and realize how hard they are working. It gives them a reprieve and allows them to return the next day refreshed.

Identify the cause. Typically, there is something that is causing burnout – whether it is a project, deadline or meeting. Look at what that was and, together, try to see how that can be prevented next time. Maybe it’s having another person leading the charge, or having more people working on the project. Try to make more resources available for them so they aren’t overwhelmed with that specific project in the future.

Switch things up. If burnout is the cause of a specific project, take them off the project that overwhelmed them, and put them on a different one that would be a better use of their skills. Not all projects are for all people, and that goes for top producers, too. The fact that someone is a top producer for a specific role or project, doesn’t mean they would be a top producer for everything.

Prevent the ripple effect. If a few employees look overwhelmed or stressed, do something fun for the whole team or company, whether it’s a having an early happy hour in the office or getting up to do an office-wide stretch. It’s important to notice this because burnout can ripple throughout the office if not spotted and fixed early.

Focus on the small wins. Celebrate the small wins because employees who are burned out need constant motivation and support. Celebrating the small wins is one way of doing that.


Tom Gimbel is founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm headquartered in Chicago. LaSalle Network was an Inner City 100 winner in 2011 and 2013. This week at the Inner City 100, Gimbel and several other CEOs of alumni companies will speak in a panel discussion, “Rethinking Traditional Industries.” To learn more about the Inner City 100, visit or email Eliza LaJoie.



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