What is Your Busy-ness Costing You?

How long did it take you to find the mistake in the puzzle? It wasn’t hidden, the the* mistake was there in plain sight — you just needed to take the time needed to give finding the mistake proper focus. (*Done on purpose!)

Like this visual puzzle, burnout and the cost to the reputation of your organization and your leadership are easy to miss. Talent acquisition is not a get it and forget it event. The easy part is hiring people you trust to do the job you need done. Once new employees are settled into the role, contributing to the team and producing deliverables, it becomes increasingly easier to believe that they have what they need to continue to succeed. This can be a false sense of security. It is important that you make time to touch base with all employees under your leadership on a regular basis to make sure they continue to have the tools they need to do their job successfully.


You hire each employee for their ability to contribute to your team and the organization as a whole. If they begin to disengage for any reason — withdrawing in meetings, not contributing their best to projects, or performing sub-par in other collaborative activities — you are left with input and productivity that is potentially less than desirable.

While the loss of contributions is frustrating to you and your team, it is important that you notice the disconnects before the employee begins to require more time out of the office, another sign of burnout.

Everyone needs personal time out of the office, of course, but be aware of increasing time out of the office. I talk about the need for trust in another blog (link to Building Trust Needed blog) in more detail. Part of this trust should be an understanding of the person; an understanding of communication style, preferred work environments, and other factors that contribute to employee satisfaction. This knowledge can help you frame a conversation about frequent time out of the office. Ask questions based on established insights:

  • While they preferred the ability to work from home previously, maybe they are being challenged by the inability to receive direct input from stakeholders when they are out of the office but feel like they are ungrateful for asking to return
  • The project that allowed them to focus on a specialized skill may not be going as well as they had hoped, leaving them needing more time out of the office to recover from the stress
  • Opportunities with another organization could be causing them to reconsider their value to you and the company all together

Trust with the employee allows you to open the conversation on all levels of engagement and work to resolve them. Consider the implications of the employee being out of the office so often for both in and out of office teams. Discuss these concerns, expressing the importance of their full contribution to the team and the value it brings. By making time to discuss potential shifts in work-related needs, you allow the employee the chance to see what you see, the value of the position, the employee’s ability in the role, and can discuss how, under your leadership, you can work for a more satisfying environment. Most importantly, conversations based on a trusting rapport can prevent the loss of the employee — possibly the most expensive cost of disengaged employees.

Turnover and Reputation

When I say that loss of talent is expensive, I mean it. It is no secret that it is less expensive to keep an employee than onboard a new one. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2017 Talent Acquisition Benchmarking Report says the average cost-per-hire is $4, 425 — but you lose more than that, you lose experience and risk your reputation.

Employees grow to understand the current practices and processes of your organization. When you lose an employee, not only do you lose their ability to work within the organizational framework, you must now bring on another employee who will have to learn them. Training organizational processes slows down the employee’s time to autonomy but also limits the employee whose responsibility it is to show them the ropes — usually one of your senior team members.

Organizational practices and processes must be learned along with a new familiarity and understanding of your industry. Even a seasoned veteran of your industry will need to understand past goals and outcomes of your company as well as market analysis based on the positioning of your organization.

The loss of an employee tells a story directly, indirectly, or both. If the former employee was client-facing, you should expect that they were sharing their frustrations with client contacts. This may have been done in the form of open criticism of your leadership or harder-to-see slip ups (which may or may not have been intentional, but, instead due to stress, lack of attention, or other factors stemming from disengagement). Regardless of how much clients knew, the turnover will not likely be a surprise to them. Attrition is understandable, but a high turnover rate in client-facing roles is a clear sign that there is trouble within your organization. Regardless of overall implications regarding the organization, and worse, your leadership of the team, the personal frustration of having to familiarize themselves with yet another new contact and their methods affects your customer facing reputation — again — speaking volumes.

Do not get so busy with your business that you lose the time needed to check in with your most important asset — your team. It is critical to notice possible signs of burnout. Doing so allows you to actively work to improve employee satisfaction with their role. Being open to this work speaks volumes about your leadership. In this age of online reputation reporting, confident, proactive leadership gains a reputation of an organization people want to work with.

Shift Points

  • Look for signs of burnout in your team, especially the ones that are not so obvious
  • Consider what your turnover rate says about your business and your leadership
  • The best way to spot signs of burnout is to make time to meet with your employees between meetings
  • Looking for signs of burnout in and ensuring ongoing job satisfaction of your team is a proactive way to protect the reputation of your organization and your leadership
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