The Risk of Executive Burnout

There is a common view that the more senior you are, the greater the expectation that you will deal with whatever pressures your role entails without the need for any mental health support. But burnout is a risk at all employee levels.

There is a misconception that because a senior level executive gets paid more, they won’t suffer from stress or burnout.

Yet in reality, this is clearly not true. We’ve seen many situations in recent years where famous people (including footballers and musicians) have admitted significant mental health issues despite their wealthy status.

Of course, that doesn’t detract from the significant worries and stresses the vast majority of employees across the country will be currently going through from a financial perspective. With the cost of living rising at nearly twice the rate of wage growth, many families are having to choose between eating and heating.

So, although the mental health concerns are going to be different and much less likely to be financial for senior executives, they nevertheless shouldn’t be ignored.

Yet the attitude of employers towards senior executive mental health seems to continue to be ignored.

Research conducted for KellyOCG’s 2022 Global Workforce Report surveyed 1,000 decision-makers including C-Suite, directors and senior management at some huge global organisations with a combined revenue of $135billion. 

The research highlighted that nearly two thirds (63%) of respondents stated their workload was unmanageable and therefore they were considering leaving their role. Furthermore, 72% of senior executives stated their employer didn’t care about their mental health.

Unless this is addressed, this is likely to lead to a swathe of exits at a senior level which, coupled with the existing unfilled vacancy crisis, could cause major disruption to an organisation’s success and growth capability. In fact, the research highlighted that there could be a mass exodus of senior business leaders with 72% planning to leave their employer within the next two years, creating major gaps in organisations senior leadership teams.

The pandemic hasn’t helped as it forced senior leadership teams to fundamentally change a swathe of operational aspects to enable remote working across entire organisations in many cases.

These pressures haven’t eased post-pandemic as organisations have moved into a world of balancing permanent remote working expectations from employees with business operational needs. Furthermore, with the number of job vacancies outstripping the number of unemployed people for the first time since records began, additional pressure will be brought to bear on the senior leadership teams of organisations struggling to resource effectively. 

As a result, it is critical that organisations provide their senior executives with a similar level of mental health support to that which they are often providing to lower-level staff. The stresses and worries may be different, but the impact on the organisation of senior leaders exiting is likely to be significantly greater.

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