Dear J.T. & Dale: May I ask you a question about burnout? I am 64 years old and hope to retire at the end of this year. I am a member of a small team in a very busy office. For the past 14 years I have routinely worked 50 hours a week, sometimes more. I am now recovering from a bout of pneumonia. Six months ago I had a bad case of flu and missed several days. I have finally realized that I am completely exhausted, physically, mentally and creatively. Should I discuss this with our team leader? I feel a lot of guilt about not keeping up my end and would like to be able to offer some kind of solution. – Elizabeth
J.T.: You have to be really careful as to when you share this. If you tell them you plan to retire at the end of the year, they might decide to push that up for you. Only you can evaluate the relationship you have with your employer and what they would do. That said, I might just suggest you go in and say, “I’m feeling some burnout and I think me being sick repeatedly is a sign I need a more reasonable work schedule.” If they say that’s not possible, then you could respond with, “Then, I need to let you know I’m planning to retire soon, so perhaps it’s time to speed that up.” If they realize you could leave them high and dry, they will want to get something in place. Just be ready in the event they find your replacement sooner than expected.
DALE: First, congratulations on being so close to retirement. I hope you can make it a graceful exit but J.T. and I both have heard many stories that include some version of, “Well, if you’re leaving, then leave.” So we worry it could be an abrupt departure. If you can bear it, I’d wait a few months before offering the company your exit plan. However, whatever the timing, you need to offer to help hire and train your replacement and that gives you some leverage. If they are open-minded, here’s one example of a perfect exit that might solve the burnout. I know an executive who phased himself out of his job. He went to a four-day workweek, then, a while later, a three-day week, and so on. It made for a transition that benefitted him and the company.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I was at a party this weekend and overheard someone severely trash talking my boss. Toward the end, he said he heard her business was failing and wouldn’t be around much longer. I don’t think that’s true, but I was horrified. I would want to know if people were spreading rumors like that. But if she confronts him, he might figure out it was me. Maybe he said those things on purpose because I was there. What should I do? – Holly Ann
J.T.: I would tell your boss. Your boss’s reputation as a business owner is being disparaged. She deserves the opportunity to confront him. I think she’ll appreciate you letting her know. You don’t have to defend her or get into a discussion with someone like that, but as a female business owner, I know I would greatly appreciate it if an employee came to me with this info. It shows loyalty and gives the boss a chance to address it.
DALE: I’m going to go the other way and add this to my long list of Shut-Your-Piehole situations. This is mere gossip. As the saying goes, “Believe half of what you see and none of what hear.” (I learned that saying from a Marvin Gaye song, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” but I looked it up and the saying originated in a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Who knew?) If the rumor of the business failing gnaws at you, then do some informal chatting the with marketing and accounting folks and see if they’re worried. Then, do your best to help prove the trash talker wrong.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2020 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.