Business owner: how to prevent the risk of burnout

15 August 2023
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On the road to burnout, there are signs of both behavioral and physical symptoms that can alert the entrepreneur. Or the people close to you, who are essential watchdogs, such as your accountant. Explanations.


6.5% of self-employed workers at risk of burnout

In their day-to-day work, all managers are subject to typical “stressors”, some of which are insidious.

“A rational business leader, for example, will need to check everything, which leads to chronic stress for him… and for others. In the case of an intuitive creative, he’ll quickly become bored in a highly structured environment, offering no room for adaptation. And yet, they will only vibrate positively if they’re where they belong, with conditions that sometimes have to be created”, notes Franck Berthouloux, certified coach.

This is the case, for example, for an executive who has turned franchisee and is looking for expertise to satisfy his need for autonomy… and finds himself in a young, new company.

Limiting beliefs can thus distract a person from how to approach a situation.

“According to our research, 6.5% of non-salaried workers in France are at risk of burnout. All company directors have an existential relationship with their work, and an existential relationship with their company, which they see as their “baby”.

In fact, it is so much an extension of the manager that he ends up forgetting himself. Worse, if she disappears, he may commit the irreparable. This subordination leads to more severe and later diagnoses.

This existential relationship is so strong that entrepreneurship theorists consider that, when a company is transferred, the founder must mourn the loss of his or her business in order to be able to sell it,” says Olivier Torrès, founder of the Amarok Observatory (dedicated to the health of managers).

Overcoming the posture of invulnerable leader

There are a number of ways in which we can detect, upstream of a crisis, the moments when a company manager may be tipping over into burnout.

“We all need to be able to sense each other’s discomfort, allow ourselves to go and question them, and through active listening, hear between the lines – weight loss, spouse gone – what’s not being expressed. Depression, divorce and bankruptcy can quickly lead to the4th D: Death. You need to get your interviewer to move beyond the invulnerable executive posture.

Physical symptoms already need to be taken into account: rapid weight change (gain or loss), sometimes linked to a physical dysfunction, ailments or accidents experienced in various parts of the body – urinary tract infections, for example, are linked to the question of territory – sleep disorders – without recuperating – or even addictions,” stresses Fabrice Garrault, President of Rebond 35.

“In particular, the back is a revealing, early sign, ranging from simple discomfort to severe pain that can block the person’s movement. A similar gradation can be observed in migraine,” adds Franck Berthouloux, a TGS France consultant specializing in the health of company directors.

Signs of crisis also in behavior

Behavioral signs can indicate that a business leader is on the wrong track.

“Among the main signs of a crisis are violent changes in mood or attitude, repeated epidermal reactions (especially if the person is not known for being sanguine), defeatist statements such as “it’s everyone else’s fault” or denial. They’re all just a form of cry for help.

In the workplace, simply by consciously asking the question ‘How are you? in order to really get in touch with the other person, we receive a considerable amount of information, which can affect their health”, Fabrice Garrault continues.

The entrepreneur can also make many small mistakes in his work.

“For example, oversights, which can become more serious if certain deadlines are not met with regard to stakeholders. Or the executive is drawn into the unusual, excessive or dangerous consumption of toxic substances such as cigarettes or alcohol.

Ill-being is often linked to a lack of meaning, hence the idea of remaining attentive to one’s business project, which makes sense and generates a positive dynamic.

Other interesting signals of a verbal nature are those who generalize about young people, the state or journalists, for example, and victimize themselves, shifting their responsibility onto others.

Hence the importance of training watchdogs to detect signals, to prevent people from becoming isolated in their social relationships with others, which are also indicators,” suggests Franck Berthouloux, a TGS France consultant specializing in the health of company directors.

Digital device for anonymous questioning

The people close to the company director can act as a watchdog for these alerts, provided they are attentive…and listened to. But these conditions are not always met.

“That’s why we’ve developed the Amarok e-sante digital self-diagnosis system, which anonymously asks company directors not how they feel, but what they’ve done. Health is affected by the events we live through, because as Jean-Paul Sartre said, “the human being is never more than the sum of his actions”.

Depending on the entrepreneur’s responses, if an alert threshold is reached, an alert is triggered, inviting the entrepreneur to lift his anonymity and be contacted again by Amarok’s services.

Out of almost 12,000 assessments, we have observed over 700 business owners at risk of burnout. Our digital device is 8 times more effective at putting you in touch with a doctor or psychologist than a human sentinel.

Let’s stop reducing health – medicine and psychology – to the pathogenic, or even the pathetic. Clarifying the sources of stress and satisfaction helps the entrepreneur to manage his highs and lows, to better understand why he feels good and to act better when things go wrong! “concludes Olivier Torrès.

Online self-diagnosis tools, workshops, toll-free hotline, training for watchmen: an anti-tension panoply

Through 1nspire, Claude Villain and his team have set up several tools and services to help business leaders prevent burnout.

“We offer a self-diagnosis tool accessible online via the following link: to raise the awareness of company directors and detect their potential areas of tension, by enabling them to situate themselves along two axes: the health of the director and that of the company. With a few recommendations in case of alarm, such as reworking your strategy or regaining control of your agenda.

As a preventive measure, we also organize workshops such as “The Virtues of Mistakes”, “The Good Side of Emotions”, “Intuitive Strategy” and “The Power of Thoughts in Business”, designed to help you find the resources you need to overcome the obstacles in your path. We also have a toll-free number reserved for members only, where you can speak to a psychologist, and we can arrange an appointment with a doctor specializing in cognitive disorders, who will carry out a general examination.

We have also decided to create a watchdog awareness training course, to enable the people who accompany the company director, such as his or her chartered accountant, to detect weak signals, or even tensions. The first difficulties are indeed pernicious. They need to be recognized, before a relentless mechanism can be launched. The chartered accountant is still in a better position than the spouse, with whom the relationship is often distorted. He holds the key to the company’s finances, which is a key factor in a manager’s stress.

We also have two projects to reinforce prevention for company directors. On the one hand, the creation of a barometer in September on the evolution of managers’ health, classified by company size, to raise awareness on the subject, followed by training workshops in October, calling on burn out prevention specialists in particular, to share the degrees and stages of this physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.

Also, in the last quarter of next year, we’re planning a health day for business leaders, provisionally named… Health Day! “says Claude Villain, President of1nspire.

Recovering from burnout thanks to the most important person in your life

Having translated her transition from burn out to entrepreneurial blossoming into performance, Marie Guth offers, from experience, solutions to avoid falling into depression as an entrepreneur.

“First of all, to deepen our self-knowledge and allow ourselves moments of well-being that nourish from within.

Then listen for the first signs of fatigue and body aches. Entrepreneurs want to control everything, whereas they need to know how to let go of things over which they have no influence, such as what other people think of us, illness or the weather.

Finally, learning to know the messages of your emotions – not learning to manage them! – and to deduce the need arising from this feeling.

As managers, we’re the most important people in our lives, and without health, we can’t do anything. Life is precious, we only have one, not always easy, but so beautiful! “says Marie Guth, who is now independent again.

Also read: << Burn out: a serious but neglected issue. >> Business owners: how to bounce back after a failure.

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Écrit par François Simoneschi

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