In this Expert Interview, AdvancingWellness CEO Mari Ryan is joined by author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur David Greenwood to discuss burnout in the workplace.

Mari Ryan:  Welcome to the workplace well being essential series. I’m Mari Ryan CEO and Founder of Advancing Wellness. It is my pleasure to welcome you to this expert interview, where we explore topics that impact employee will be.  My guest today is David Greenwood. David is a serial entrepreneur speaker and author, he is the author is his first book was Overcoming Distraction: thriving with Adult ADHD, and his second book is Overcoming Burnout Real life, strategies and solutions for burnout recovery and prevention. David welcome I’m so excited to have you here for this conversation today.

David Greenwood: I’m very interested in discussing this with you obviously because this is part of your area as well, so thank you and that’s obviously an important and timely discussion.

Mari Ryan:  Well, it certainly is this time, the topic of burnout is something we hear a lot about and it’s something that in some industries in particular healthcare and hospitals come to mind immediately, this is really something that is rampant in those industries, so today but want to just explore a little bit about what this is all about.  The research that you did, for your book and what you’ve learned in that research and how we look at burnout not as a personal failure, but how we look at how it impacts individuals. I’m curious David, how is it that you came to write a book about burnout.

David Greenwood: You know, I think, obviously, all of us went through those coven years in the beginning, I think it was scary for everybody. But you know I’m running a business, running it out of my house anyways but then I have a kid who was in a new school and abruptly learning at the dining table.  Again I’m running a business there there’s so many unknowns I’m also, I think, is you know, was in the public relations and marketing industry and if anybody spent you know any time on that they know that it, I mean it literally changes by the month so. The public relations industry is fundamentally different from when I started my agency back in  and before that, because of social media and digital platforms and what have you so I was constantly having to pivot and pivot and pivot and keep up with the times. But it came about probably this time last year, when I was just exhausted mentally exhausted, I can’t think.  I’m getting physically exhausted. Now I’m an adult with add that’s why I wrote the first book and so you say you have to take a look and say you know, is it, am I just having trouble with add or executive functions, is it just the times or is it something deeper. But I was casually saying to myself “I’m burned out”. You know it’s just like that casual thing, but when I really just kind of sat down and looked at it and, like anybody does you hop online I’m like no I’m burned out there, I have some telltale signs of burnout. And I need to look into this further. So when I actually did like anybody does you hop on Amazon you look for books or other resources. And I couldn’t find anything that really I would want to read, there were some books about research and what have you and don’t get me wrong there’s other books on there. But I want to kind of a street smart. I wanted a glimpse and approach to looking at burnout looking at the causes, as well as how to recover from burnout and kind of prevent it from happening again.  So that’s when I said as a writer. I need to kind of look into this, so I brought not only my personal stories but, but the stories of others into the book.

Mari Ryan:  Oh that’s great well, thank you for being willing to share that this came from a very personal journey, so I really appreciate that. What is always so interesting for me and talking with people about these kinds of topics is how many people have had this journey that this is not that quite honestly it’s nothing unusual to hear about people and I have my own experiences some early my career.  And then some later in my career, when I was a burned-out road warrior and traveling 100% of the time for two years. These stories are not that uncommon as we’re discovering.

David Greenwood: And I think you know, as we can get into it, that.  Some people actually don’t recognize it or they just think that’s just the way I’ve chosen to live or that’s just the way that.  Life is going to be working for this employer and I gotta suck it up so yeah.

Mari Ryan:  Well it’s a little harder when you work for yourself.

David Greenwood: That’s a whole other animal as well yeah so. And there are some commonalities You work for yourself, so, as you mentioned there’s healthcare, there’s teachers there’s caregiver burnout.  And they can all lumped in as burnout but also there’s differences. I had a former CEO of the hospital asked me for my book and i’m like. You can look at it, but it doesn’t really address healthcare burnout because you know as an ER doctor or a nurse, especially during the past few years.  You can’t just walk away, I know, some have they’ve said, you know I just can’t do this anymore, but in in the thick of it, you know it’s a little different and like that’s something I actually do want to address so.

Mari Ryan:  Let’s talk a little bit about this, I know that you did a lot of interviews, for your book and I’m curious what did you learn about burnout from those interviews? What were those stories like?

David Greenwood: I think the biggest takeaways are that this is far more complex than people realize we, and it is not an Instagram moment. Okay let’s put it that way. I think we see on social media, we see these posts about “four ways to solve burnout”, “drink some water”, “go to yoga”.  You know, take your vacation time, but I think you know when I really got time to talk to these people and dig in everybody’s burnout story, while there were commonalities every burnout story was different it was everything from.  I was working too hard, or I was driving myself, where I wanted to win that award, to other things such as past traumas that people brought from their childhood, believe it or not, into their adult life and into their work, and there was some unpacking that these people needed to do. You know, with a professional like a therapist, for example, to resolve because you brought some of these lifelong habits into your adult life like people pleasing and the inability to say no, and you know your boss says you got to work  hours and you say fine whatever you know, so I think you know it’s a lot more complex in getting to burnout as well as complex and getting out of burnout. The other thing that I think that people need to understand, and I got a lot of tough love writing this book, which was fine, because I think I needed it, but you are the co-founder of your burnout and I think people need to understand that I think a lot of people blame the employer or the organization and there’s certainly some blame there don’t get me wrong, I mean you, you work with companies that’s what you do. But I think that there, people need to understand that there are certain habits that they have in their work habits, as well as their personal life. That have contributed to that burn out and you know we talked about the great resignation, but if you just say you know what I’m not going to work for this company more because I’m burned out and then you go and bring the same habits, to a new company guess what’s going to happen. So those are kind of the two takeaways is that it’s more complex than people think and be you did contribute to it in some way.

Mari Ryan:   I love that term you’re using ‘the co-founder of your burnout”. It’s really an interesting way to state it.  I’m curious were there any other themes, or you know so you’re talking about some of these are habits and things that you know we possess. What were some of those themes that you really heard in those interviews?

David Greenwood: I would classify most people I interviewed as a high achiever, so they were driven to succeed. At one time they loved their career they love the place they work that they had a passion for it. But something happened.  And it drove them into burnout and again that’s why I say you are co-founding of your burnout is that you wanted to do a good job, maybe you found a company that you really loved at the time, but the circumstances continued to drive this burnout so I again I would classify everybody as somewhat of a high achiever.  The other thing is boundaries pretty much everybody I interviewed had some challenge with setting the necessary boundaries in their own life to. To not let your professional life, ruin your personal life. If you’re your employer said you got to go fly to another country okay fine, or you got to work three nights a week or you got to. Answer all the phones or it’s wedding season so it’s hours a week, take it or leave it versus saying no that’s not what I signed up for, so I think a lot of people had the inability to actually set their boundaries, and I think the other thing that I learned is the boundaries, as also understanding your own capacity. Boundaries with yourself, what you’re not only going to tolerate with your career, but with yourself. I think that’s a major challenge and something that people really need to look at two other things. A misalignment of values, whether you understood you had values or not, whether you actually sat down and said, “these are my values” or whether you just didn’t have them in writing, there was a misalignment of values and there was a lack of purpose and what you were doing and some internal struggle was going on with these people saying this this this isn’t me.

Mari Ryan:  Can you give me an example of what that you know what’s that misalignment like. How does that manifest?

David Greenwood:  I’ll take me for an example, you know one little example is that and I alluded to, at the beginning, is that I was in a public relations business, I was what they call a media relations. Professional where I would put CEOs on TV and get them quoted in major newspapers, I would ghost write articles for business magazines that type of thing. But when I could march a CEO into a TV studio and they talked for five minutes boom, I was worth not only what I charge them but I felt that what I was doing was creating purpose, I was helping that company move things forward now where PR is basically just social media. I found a lack of purpose, I know we all live in social media, this will be on social media but it didn’t feed the same beast. As me earning a CEO and an organization, the credibility by being on say a major TV station. I think another quick example is that you know I interviewed a journalist, a great journalist and again, these are kind of connected but you know as the digital world took over traditional media, the TV and radio and TV and newspaper business needed to evolve, so it was all about getting clicks and all about you know read this still you know flashy headlines and stuff like that, and he didn’t feel that his personal values of being a really dedicated journalist were being reflected in his career, because he was out there just getting clicks for the TV station, you know I’m saying.

Mari Ryan:  That’s a good example.

David Greenwood: Thank you.

Mari Ryan:  I think I interrupted you did you have a third point on.

David Greenwood: I think the only other thing that really quick is this people working too hard. I mean they’re working too hard there’s a talent acquisition professional from the United Kingdom, who I mean she admitted she was working day and night. For the HR people watching where you know they probably understand this, is that you know you’re filling a position for a company that hired you to fill a position. So, you’re not only you know racing against maybe another recruiting firm that has the same job that they’re trying to fill but you’re trying to prep the candidate you’re you know, and she was working day and night, and she did this for two years. And it finally caught up with her, but, but she admitted to saying that she was working too hard so.

Mari Ryan:  The stories that I find are most moving in some ways, are the ones, but also the saddest stories, I think, are the ones where somebody ends up having this massive health crisis, you know whether it’s you know to your physical exhaustion depression, heart attack, whatever it is, where people are literally just like working themselves to death. And, and those are the stories that really you know make me sad, in some ways, because we shouldn’t have to nearly work ourselves to death, before we get the message that something’s not right here.

David Greenwood: Right and you know I, and I had this feeling, when I when I click send to the publisher for my first book I’m like I just told the entire world, I have add. But it was the same feeling, this time, when I published this book is that did, I go too hard on the stories. And, and I wrote it, I wrote it that way, because I want people to understand that this is what can happen. There are people in my book that have heart attacks miscarriages digestive issues that no doctor in the country could identify. And when these people finally figured out that they were burned out life changed but you’re absolutely right is that. A lot of people who burn out just let it go until it’s too far and I wanted to let people understand that this is how bad it can get I’m not meant to scare you. And I say it several times in the beginning of the book if you need to put this down put it down, but I need you to pick it up, because I need to understand what can happen.

Mari Ryan:  Well, this is so important and such an important message, and thank you for being the person to put it out there that yes, you know you do have to say, stop. Let’s talk about this in the context of the workplace, you know as, as you know, I do a lot of work with employers and what can employers do. And let’s look at the role that the employer can play because this isn’t just about the individual, it’s about what happens in the workplace, so what role can the employers play in helping to prevent burnout in their workplaces.

David Greenwood: I think, first of all I need to want to prevent it, you know I mean they need to. They need to be dedicated to understanding that this can be a problem, and they need to like I say you know look for somebody like yourself. To get in there and analyze if there are things that are causing people to burn out if there’s a culture of those values problems if you know everything that you do, but they need to want to prevent it. I have a lot, I still run my marketing business to some extent, and I have a long-term client who was a collection agency. And I’m working with them for a long time, but these four owners really from day one understood that they need to take care of their people, they are in a very high pressure industry, sometimes there are people are being abused okay by consumers. They needed to do everything they could to make sure that they were taking care of people, of course, as well as retaining talent, but you can’t just churn through people in a high pressure industry like that, so they knew from day one, when I open the doors that they needed to develop a culture. And an environment where this was not going to happen so they need to want to prevent it.

I think the other thing. Is that they need to lead by example, I think the C-suite I think management needs to lead by example.  Because if you’re the manager and you take your laptop on vacation all the time and you’re there when employees show up and you’re there when they leave. That’s not a good example I understand there are certain industries where it may be it’s a seasonal business like a moving company where that’s just part of the territory where you’re going to be there hours a day for. You know X number of months, but I think some managers, some people in the C suite think leading by example is working their butts off and it’s not it’s not you, you need to you need to show people that this is a place where you can build a career and a healthy career so. I also think it’s important that they work together with both management C suite and employees, because I don’t think it’s a big problem to put everybody in the same room and have a discussion about this, maybe several discussions, how can we improve the culture of this organization, how can we ensure that you can build a career here where your professional life can support your personal life and not the other way around, so I think they need to work together

Something you and I talked about, and I know enough about this to be dangerous, you know but psychological safety is key if you are bringing ideas to the table and they’re either discounted or laughed at, you’re going to burn out. And I’ll go back to my ADHD kind of mode is that people who have ADHD or you know other you know neuro diverse. Brains bring a ton of ideas into an organization and if that person is constantly just brushed off or discounted they’re going to get angry they’re going to get resentful and they’re going to leave so and that goes for anybody neuro divergent or not so. I think the other bottom line, just real quick. Somebody said this in the book there’s no winners in burnout. You know, you may have somebody that is great at their job, their career, but if you burn them out, they not only will leave but they may leave the career altogether and have to go find something else because they are so burnt out and on the employer side, we know how much it costs to recruit and you know retain talent and do that, over and over again so there’s no winners when it comes to this issue.

Mari Ryan:  That’s a good way to think about it. I’m curious whether you sense that there is. Some stigma associated with burnout where people aren’t willing to admit it, or talk about it because they feel like it’s a personal failure.

David Greenwood: I think so yeah I think there’s a clear stigma they don’t they it’s an unknown like they don’t feel comfortable maybe bring it up to their employer where I’m being overworked or there’s too much this job or yeah you know. Interestingly enough, there are only two men in the book. And I don’t know whether that.

Mari Ryan:  Two other than you?

David Greenwood: Yes, two other than me, so yeah three guys. The rest of women, so I don’t know if that tells you something I mean there’s a little bit in the book and I discussed this with. Diane Winger who’s a coach for professional women, she was also a therapist in her former life. But we talked about how women are brought up to be the caregiver and to make sure the family is fed and clothed and the beds are made, and all that stuff and I think there is probably something to that again I’m a white dude from Boston I know enough. Okay, so, so I will claim to you know, be an expert in that, but I think that just goes to show you that there was a little bit of stigma and a little bit of hesitancy to actually.

Mari Ryan:  Verbalize this yeah I was afraid of them. What advice, do you have for individuals who feel that they might be experiencing burnout.

David Greenwood: I think it, you need to be brutally honest with yourself. And you mentioned the stigma, but you know, is there a stigma with yourself, I think you need to be brutally honest that that you need to address this that you can’t live like this forever.  You need to look at you need to take inventory of the things I’m doing that are contributing to this, I think you just need to put it all out on the table for yourself.  I also think it’s important in the beginning, just talk to somebody if it’s your spouse, if it’s your parents, if it’s just a close friend. As you mentioned a lot of organizations have any gap where it’s a safe space to talk about this, but keeping it inside you is going to give you that heart attack it’s going to give you those digestive issues it’s going to it. I’m sure people have said, this I’ve seen this book before but I’m trying to get through the whole thing as we speak.: But, but the book “The Body Keeps the Score”.  Okay, and the title of that book is spot on it. Because it is true that if you let this this fester long enough, you’re going to get headaches your next going to hurt your diet, you know all these things that that are directly related to burn out it’s important, I think, to just talk to somebody just start the conversation so I’m. Excellent yeah, I think it’s also important to hit the pause button, you know we learned in driver’s ed to not slam on the brakes, because the car is going to go out of control, you know.  But I think we need to learn how to hit the pause button just slow it down a little bit. In doing so, understand your kind of triggers what’s causing you to feel this way and again that’s either talking with somebody taking a hard look at what you’re doing yeah you know what I can’t say no to my boss I’m still working seven hours a week yeah I’m doing this. Self-care it’s important I don’t care. You can go to the gym or take a walk for an hour nobody’s going to miss you. So you just not you know they don’t know if you’re on a phone call or a meeting you can disappear for an hour so it’s hard as it may be few in the moment. I think people need to understand that self-care is hugely important and then I think there’s several other things, but I think you need to ask yourself, can I stay do I want to stay. Can my situation be fixed or Do I need to burn the boats, though, and that again is through a therapist a burnout coach a close friend somebody that can kind of maybe help you navigate these issues so.

Mari Ryan:  Really good advice, yes, really good. If our audience wants to learn more about you and the work that you’re doing where can they find you David.

David Greenwood:  I have a landing page and I’m building out the website, but it’s overcomingburnout.net.  And I’m building more content on that website, but it is it’s just a quick synopsis of the book and then a link to Amazon, where people can buy it.

Mari Ryan:  that’s great so it is available on Amazon. Highly recommended and learn about what other people’s experiences are so you don’t have to experience. David as always, it’s always a wonderful to spend time with you I’m so grateful for your taking the time to write this book for your contribution to not just your own well-being but the well-being of others, and all the great work that you’re doing.

David Greenwood: Great it’s always good to hang out with you Mari.

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