How to Measure Employee Happiness and Deal with Job Burnout

30 Mar. ‘22
Gornik, Mindbox Russia CEO

Alexander Gornik, CEO of the Mindbox marketing automation platform, speaks on how to implement self-management, without losing the best employees.

Today, companies around the world are realizing that the path to efficiency and success lies in the happiness of their employees. For this reason, Gallup found that the level of employee satisfaction correlates with factors such as company productivity, revenue and the loyalty of audiences. To create the most comfortable internal environment, business needs to conduct itself in different ways, depending on whether it is the expansion of bonuses or a basic change in the idea of management, known as the “Teal Paradigm”.

The previous psychological concept was updated for business by Frederic Laloux in his famous book, “Discovering the Organizations of the Future”. The main idea of “Teal” is that of self-government, along with open salaries, lack of control, and no management hierarchies. This idea has received not only mentions (it was repeatedly mentioned by German Gref in his speeches), but it also represents a real embodiment. As a result, many companies have now adopted the “Teal” approach. Others are also experimenting by implementing just one or two factors, , such as open salaries. This system is most appropriate for niches of intellectual property, where staff members mainly perform a cognitive workload. Interest is further fueled by global business trends towards horizontal management structures (agile teams, internal startups with a large degree of freedom)

How Self-Management Works:

It is important to know that in many companies, the concept of “Teal”may differ. It is, however, evident that the core of this is self-management, which remains the same. Using Mindbox as an example, we can see what suggestions make up this management system. The main requirement for this system to function effectively is total employee independence, which is possible only under the following conditions:

  • Focus on prioritizing business processes. In its simplest form, a “Teal” organization is characterized by the absence of a hierarchical management structure (in practice, most companies have an administration team and a minimum number of managers). Instead of a manager who sets tasks, teams are equipped with common goals and missions. A detailed description of business processes are recorded in a collective, strategic document. This is used instead of operational management.
  • Implementation of agile tools. To organize business procedures, both within and between teams, horizontal project management tools are used. Good examples are a Kanban board, project and team management software such as Trello and Asana, Slack for messages, and help desk systems.
  • Elimination of demotivating factors. These factors include anything that may restrict employees’ freedom and creative thinking. Teal companies abandon strict regulations on work hours, dress codes, and do not ban social media or games in the workplace, etc. This leads to more emotional fulfilment in the workplace.
  • The right to veto. An employee may change or accept any decision to change a business process, as long as they inform everyone who it affects. Staff members who disagree have the right to veto and therefore have the right to make a counter-proposal. Both parties are required to look for an appropriate solution. They can also bring in a third party if necessary. Shareholders should aim to solve conflicts as they arise.

What are the Problems that can Occur After Implementing Self-Management?

In the absence of direct control and supervision, employees take responsibility for achieving common goals. This is a lot more complicated than simply carrying out the tasks you’ve been assigned . This is why this structure is far from being appropriate and suitable for everyone. When implementing a teal system, the company inevitably faces a change or shift in staff members .Employees who have a great deal of intrinsic motivation remain in the company. There are, however, many employees who struggle to cope with the constant need for making independent decisions. At first this causes stress which later can lead to burnout. In order to prevent this from happening, companies should look out for early signs of burnout (for example, measure burnout using this methodology, developed by the American Psychological Association, during a long-term study in 2008).

Here are the key factors that usually lead to burnout:

  • A heavy workload.
  • Absence of control (helplessness, inability to improve the work conditions).
  • Insufficient rewards.
  • A toxic working environment with stressful communications.
  • Mismatch of personal and corporate values.
  • Unfairness (e.g. in the company’s decisions).

A survey table is used as an emotional gauge and can be used for research and understanding. The survey should always be anonymous, however for the best understanding of a situation, it is best to include a section on belonging to a specific team or department (these may give you a better understanding of the overall environment of the department). Each question may have two possible answers, for example: “I can complete the necessary tasks for each day” and “I often need to do more than I can in a day.” These surveys help determine work overload.

An alternative to a survey could be a full-time psychologist or coach who conducts personal interviews. These, of course, are only used provided that such a format is approved by all employees.

What to do if Teams are Showing Signs of Burnout:

Your survey might show signs of burnout in individual employees. This is definitely something that you can try to resolve. But one reason for their burnout may be down to the fact that a “Teal” structure doesn’t work for them. In this case, the best solution would be a mutual agreement to part ways. If the stress level isn’t limited to a handful of employees and seems to be rising across board, then it’s important to focus on the following aspects (it’s worth doing this in any case, in order to be ahead of the curve):

  • Reduce the workload. For example, introduce a system that allows workers to declare overtime and get reimbursed with money or time off.
  • Organize a comfortable workspace. Provide separate light and spacious rooms for teams, instead of open-space offices. In addition to this, remove noise, equip restrooms and the kitchen, buy comfortable furniture and monitors, and create green spaces.
  • Encourage open dialogue and discuss issues. The company must have conditions that allow colleagues to receive support, so that they can speak out and be heard during their moments of need. Organizing regular events also helps with this. For example, conducting retrospective meetings where work that has been completed is discussed. We also practice the world-cafe method in at Mindbox, which sees a large group of employees speak openly on a given topic. Do not forget about the veto principle, which can be used to resolve any conflict or bring it up for public discussion.
  • Update Goals. A lack or loss of purpose at work leads to burnout amongst employees. In order to help them develop new goals or reevaluate the old ones, employees can be appointed special mentors (coworkers with high social and professional skills). Regular company-wide presentations on the teams’ achievements and plans for the future are also great ways to keep goals on track and boost motivation. Companies should also organize a system of feedback for salary reviews (colleagues write what they expect from an employee, which helps them set the right goals).

Teal companies should monitor the level of burnout by placing responsibility onto general staff members. This will then increase employee efficiency. Teal companies should also focus on improving the working environment and its conditions. If the company ignores this, the higher team productivity will be very short-lived . As a result, the company will see an outflow of the best and most specialized staff members. And this, in turn, will ultimately result in the company returning to manual control.