Burn out in business: a serious but neglected issue

Burn-out bij bedrijfsdirecteuren: een ernstig maar verwaarloosd probleem

1% of France’s GDP is at stake through the health of business leaders, who pay little attention to the warning signs of burnout. As a result, a number of associations have been set up to support managers in difficulty or even distress.

In four years, the pebble in the shoe has turned into menhirs

A busy professional career and a fulfilled family life can be dizzying. And even become so deafening that you can no longer hear the calls of your body.

“After multiple experiences as a hairdresser, kitchen designer-vendor or manager of a hotel-restaurant, in 2013 I set up a business with my partner, positioned in a niche of craft creation: the manufacture and marketing of unique art glass products.

The boat was fragile, living from paycheck to paycheck to make up for our wobbly cash flow, all the while being the full-time mother of a large blended family. I refused to listen to my body’s progressive calls: psoriasis, asthma and so on. This message was not understood because I never asked myself to understand it.

In the space of four years, the pebble in the shoe turned into menhirs: liquidation of the company, uprooting after a move to Brittany, divorce and cancer! In the liquidator’s waiting room, I discovered a poster about 60,000 bounces. By June 2017, I was taking my first steps towards a rebound, accompanied by a coach and a sponsor from this association,” recounts Marie Guth, who is now acting out this particular experience in a show, L’effet ricochet: quand nos pierres deviennent un chemin.

Entrepreneurial burnout: 3 major warnings… but few trained watchdogs

Three elements are factors of professional exhaustion, signs of burn out.

First of all, the phenomenon of weariness, materialized by the repetition of the expression “j’en ai marre” (“I’m fed up”). Secondly, a feeling of disappointment, which increases over time, with regard to the attitude of employees, customers, the state and family and friends.

Finally, sleep disorders: sleeping less, waking up tired or before the alarm clock goes off. Because of the phenomenon of subordination to their company, entrepreneurs make sleep an adjustment variable in their work, whereas it is essentially a recuperative function that should never be sacrificed,” recalls Olivier Torrès, founder of the Amarok Observatory (dedicated to the health of managers) over fifteen years ago.

A manager is not just another employee

Over the last ten years or so, a number of associations have been set up to support managers in difficulty or even distress. 1nspire is the fruit of a meeting between Lionel Fournier, then Regional Director of Harmonie Mutuelle Atlantique, and Claude Villain, Associate Director of TGS France.

“In my 35 years as a manager, I’ve never had a single appointment with occupational medicine! Since 2019, the association 1nspire, wants to make the health of managers an element of corporate performance, by seeking to capture the invisible: burnout, but also the emotional or traumatic.

For an entrepreneur, it’s taboo to talk negatively about oneself, as this could set them up for failure. But failure doesn’t exist in France, whereas for Americans, it’s a strength, an experience.

A study carried out on the initiative of1nspire has shown that the most important thing for a company director remains managing tensions between staff and customers, between the short and medium term, and between professional and personal life. The key to a balanced leader is to breathe, to let go of problems and show the way forward. Hence the association’s maxim: “A leader who inspires is a leader who breathes”, explains Claude Villain, president and founder of 1nspire, an association of human utility.

For its part, the Rebond 35 association was born out of the distress felt by professionals working in the commercial courts of Rennes and St Malo, helpless in the face of their peers, watching them leave without moral solutions after filing for bankruptcy.

“We’ve set up an association to enable business owners to find out about, train and anticipate difficult or even extreme situations, through an invisible net of solidarity and support that mobilizes resources to help them get through. Our action is part of a rehabilitation of the relationship with failure, which too often ostracizes people and locks them in,” says Fabrice Garrault, President of Rebond 35.

Since 2016, 270 managers have been supported by this association, through some 30 active peers and 25 support professionals.

Study establishes link between executive health and company performance

While there are many regulations to promote the well-being of employees, this is not the case for company directors, who don’t even allow themselves to stop working, or even to fall ill. This inequitable treatment led to the creation of the 1nspire association.

“1% of France’s GDP is at stake through the health of business leaders. They need to be able to free themselves from their mental load and transform pressure, tension and emotion into positive impact. Only authenticity in relationships allows access to these unspoken things.

If it’s not possible to break through the secrecy or denial, 1nspire has set up a self-diagnosis tool for all types of managers, to take their own pulse on a regular basis and thus protect themselves.

All the more so since there is a correlation between the health of the manager and that of the company, as shown by a1nspire study of 400 entrepreneurs, from craftsmen to the heads of large groups.

If the company is doing well, in spite of the work overload, the manager derives satisfaction from the situation.

However, if manager and company are not doing well, the overload is transformed into a distorted vision of the future. A fit leader is a company that performs.

Another of the association’s studies has shown that 3 hours or more of physical activity per week has a real impact on a manager’s health, and therefore on his or her economic performance.

Disconnecting from digital tools – laptops, computers… – for 2 to 5 hours a week also has a positive impact. Some executives take part in their board meetings… by jogging or going for a walk! The way we relate to ourselves and to time has a real influence on the growth of a company and its sales”, explains Franck Berthouloux, a TGS France consultant specializing in the health of company directors.

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