Burnout busters: 5 tips to give your team motivation and purpose

Burnout is a theme for today's maxed-out, stressed-out, remote and hybrid workforce. Consider these leadership tips to keep burnout at bay
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We’re living in unprecedented times. Around the world, we’re experiencing digital and technological transformations in almost every industry – some that we would have considered impossible just a few years ago.

But with great opportunities come great challenges, and in IT, there’s rarely a day we would describe as easy.

If you’re involved in digital transformation projects, you know that the path can be rocky and painful: endless meetings, poor leadership, constant changes of scope, cut timelines, slashed budgets, endless testing, and failings, and long working hours all make it tough to maintain your energy and motivation.

[ Want to strengthen organizational resilience? Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ] 

IT burnout: the facts

recent survey by TalentLMS found that the tech industry has one of the highest burnout rates. More than 50 percent of today’s tech employees reportedly experience burnout. Worse, TalentLMS predicts that over 70 percent of businesses will face a shortage of IT employees as a result of The Great Resignation.

The fast-paced, ever-changing competitive environment of IT makes it prone to all sorts of stress, and in the post-pandemic era, keeping a healthy work-life balance is increasingly difficult. What can you do as a leader to give teams motivation and a sense of purpose?

1. Encourage honest and open conversations

When you encourage honest feedback and open communication, people feel that it’s safer to express what makes them feel unhappy at work. Take the time to listen to your team attentively and without judgment. This will foster a deeper trust, which creates the right environment for team members to speak up.

2. Help your team focus on the right priorities

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a boss who can’t provide a sense of direction. This alone is one of the biggest causes of work-related stress. When too many critical projects are on the table – all with the highest priority and all on impossible timelines with limited budgets and resources – most people will throw in the towel.

Help your teams prioritize their workloads by providing the right vision. Help them select the right projects and priorities that align with their skills and experience.

[ Also read 3 leadership tips for surviving workplace uncertainty. ]

3. Incentivize best practices without falling into the 'perfectionism fallacy'

Many IT professionals struggle with the notion of delivering “the perfect project,” in which the scope, timeline, and budget never change, and everything runs perfectly.

Most projects simply don’t work that way. A new piece of software evolves as a result of organic iterations as new client requests emerge. As a leader, you should incentivize your team to deliver great work without micromanaging or expecting people to strive for perfection based on impossible budgets and timelines.

4. Recognize and praise your team members' abilities in public

Public recognition for a job well done can boost loyalty, engagement, and satisfaction even more than a pay raise.

The prolific American writer Margaret Cousins once said: “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life.”

Don’t underestimate the power of giving your team positive reinforcement. Public recognition for a job well done can boost loyalty, engagement, and satisfaction even more than a pay raise, according to a recent Gallup study.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise; people enjoy positive attention. That’s why social media is so pervasive and powerful; it provides the social recognition many of us seek.

Engage your team by giving positive and sincere feedback and recognizing their accomplishments.

5. Let team members work on projects they find meaningful

Team members can’t expect to land their dream project every time, but they also shouldn’t end up constantly doing unwanted or unmotivating work.

Keep an eye on your team’s workload and be attentive when people start complaining about redundant or useless tasks. Empower your team to become self-sufficient and encourage them to decide which activities they prefer to focus on; this brings real meaning to employees and countless benefits to projects.

People who have the freedom to steer their own workloads and tasks feel more empowered and enthusiastic about delivering quality work than those who feel stuck doing a job they really don’t want to do.

In short, coach your team to become leaders and masters of their skills. After all, people can deliver great work only when they enjoy what they do.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Paola Knecht is a certified leadership, transformational, and self-development coach. Offering insights from 15 years of work in leading-edge global corporations, including Viatris and Syngenta, Knecht is dedicated to helping people transform their professional and personal lives.


These are some great tips, thanks for sharing. I think on the fifth point about working on meaningful projects, you missed an opportunity to talk about automating mundane, repetitive tasks. From my experience and the people I talk to, there is an uptick, some might call it a surge, in using automation technology to perform the unmotivating work so that people and teams can work on the cool projects. (And then they automate those too!)