Dory Might Need a Break.
At Feyen Zylstra, we believe that business is a force for good in the world. Business can and should have a positive impact on the lives of employees, customers, and communities. At FZ, we embrace this responsibility. At our core, we follow the philosophy that the late Herb Kelleher, long time CEO at Southwest Airlines, articulated when he said, “The business of business is people.”
The foundation of this lies in recognizing and embracing that business happens in the context of relationships and connections—connection with coworkers, connection with customers, and connection with community. This all sounds straight forward, but what about the times where we are suffering from some degree of burnout? What about the times when stress, anxiety, and exhaustion lead to apathy, cynicism, and frustration? I can’t speak for everyone, but when I am feeling apathetic, cynical, and frustrated, I am not the best relationship builder.
In the past, I have written on The Dory Method of Leadership, inspired by the 2003 Disney Pixar movie "Finding Nemo" and Dory's famous line, "Just keep swimming.” Dory encourages us to just keep moving forward, to finish the next task, to make the next decision, and to move on to the next challenge. What we don’t see in the blockbuster film is what happens when Dory gets tired and doesn’t feel like swimming. What happens when Dory starts to feel the effects of burnout?
I wonder if Dory responds to burnout the same way we often do. Does she binge watch Netflix? Does she overeat, oversleep, or maybe overdrink? A cynical Dori with one too many cocktails might be fun to imagine, but what if it is you, or your leader, or one of your coworkers coping with burnout in a self-destructive manner?
I wonder if, like many of us, she tries to ignore it and just swims faster thinking it will go away. Does she get short with those around her, respond slowly to a filling inbox, avoid difficult conversations, or ignore decisions that need to be made? I imagine that a cynical, apathetic Dory would be destructive to the relationships around her in the same way that we are when we experience the symptoms of burnout. We also unintentionally damage relationships with customers, co-workers, and those we depend on most.
Each of us experiences and deals with burnout differently. We are all at risk in this era of navigating the pressure and stress associated with unrelenting change and ongoing uncertainty. How we work is changing. Customers' needs are changing. Supply chains are changing. Expectations are changing. I could go on and on and still wouldn’t be able to cover all of the changes we are all navigating.
I don’t imagine there is a simple answer. But I do suspect that as with most things, it starts with identifying and acknowledging your current state. Taking the time to reflect on how you are feeling about your work and the impact those feelings are having on relationships around you. If after this reflection you realize that you are experiencing some of the symptoms of burnout, explore what you can do physically, mentally, and emotionally to take care of yourself in small daily doses.
Business is a force for good. Its potential can only be realized in the context of healthy relationships. Burnout is the poison that kills those relationships and taking care of yourself is the antidote.