15 May

Running on Empty


When you have a manager who repeatedly flies off the handle, screaming, swearing and slamming doors, all is not well

Employees are likely to feel petrified and literally paralysed when faced with these daily tirades. Absenteeism will escalate due to ill health caused by the enormous stress employees are all working under and they simply continue going to work because they need their monthly salary. Unemployment rates are sky high and the likelihood of finding alternative employment is scarce.

In my experience, I’ve never seen the tendency toward radical outbursts as an indicator of strong leadership. This is a nasty environment to work within and burnout seems inevitable.

When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. If constant stress has you feeling disillusioned, helpless, and completely exhausted, you may be suffering from burnout. When you’re burned out from stress, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care—let alone do something about your situation.

Burnout symptoms

It’s important to know the signs to look for, the warning lights that signal burnout:

  • Physical signs, such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stomach pain, sleep problems, frequent headaches, chronic fatigue, or increased illness.
  • Psychological signs, such as loss of enjoyment for activities once enjoyed; sadness; excessive anxiety or worry; panic attacks; feeling trapped without options for relief or escape; loss of motivation; loss of concentration; emotional hypersensitivity at seemingly inconsequential things; feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or pessimism; and/or increasing feelings of irritability, frustration, or anger.
  • Behavioural signs, such as skipping meals; little or no appetite or overeating; increase in alcohol or drug use; increased absenteeism; drop in productivity; many uncompleted projects despite long work hours; and/or isolative behaviours, such as wanting to be alone, closing doors to prevent others from access, being generally inaccessible, eating lunch alone, or being a poor team player.

Whether you recognise the warning signs of impending burnout or you’re already past the breaking point, trying to push through the exhaustion and continuing as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage.

Emotional stability

“Emotional stability” refers to a person’s ability to remain calm, or on an even keel, when faced with pressure or stress. Reducing employees’ experience of stress exposure, and potential resultant burnout syndrome can be achieved through emotional intelligence training.

Our emotions are driven by biological impulses. These biological impulses are beyond our control, but the resulting emotions are not. When emotions are running high, they certainly cannot be ignored – but they can be carefully managed. This is called self-regulation, and it’s the quality of emotional intelligence that liberates us from living like hostages to our impulses. Self-regulation is about using self-awareness to keep negative reactions under control.


Self-regulation is controlling your own reactions, including inappropriate behaviours, and instead of finding a more appropriate substitute behaviour or activity to put in its place.

Emotionally, self-regulation is the ability to calm yourself down when you’re upset and cheer yourself up when you’re down. The signifiers of emotional self-regulation are easily identified. A person who knows how to self-regulate possesses:

  • an inclination towards reflection and thoughtfulness;
  • acceptance of uncertainty and change; and
  • integrity – specifically, the ability to control poor impulsive behaviour.

Why is self-regulation so imperative for leaders?

Reasonable people—the ones who maintain control over their emotions—are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments. In these settings, the drama is very low and productivity is very high. Top performers flock to these organisations and are not apt to leave them.

Self-regulation actually has a ripple effect. Who wants to be seen as a fiery rabble-rouser when the boss is admired for his even-handedness? More positive attitudes at the top mean more positive attitudes throughout the organisation.

It’s a competitive asset. At all levels, leaders who know how to self-regulate will thrive on changes. When a new database system is announced, for instance, a self-regulating leader will steer clear of snap judgment, focus on the steps for implementation, and lead the way by example.


Self-mastery is learning how to prevent yourself from blowing a gasket and, even more importantly, learning how to preserve your health. It’s about gaining a greater understanding of what goes on inside of you. Each day, while you are navigating difficult people and challenging problems, self-mastery helps you learn how to become more aware and to regulate thoughts and emotions.

Instead of continuing to emotionally hijack yourself, it’s time to learn to regulate disruptive thoughts and emotions by paying closer attention to your internal states. Through this practice, you can learn to make better, wiser decisions in stressful situations.

I highly recommend Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s two-day course on Personal Mastery & Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This course will give you the emotional intelligence training you need to optimise your performance and leadership skills by managing your own and others’ emotions.

Book your seat at their upcoming course scheduled for 20 – 21 May in Johannesburg.

To find out more about the training courses offered by Maurice Kerrigan Africa or to arrange an appointment, simply call +27 11 794 1251 or email info@mauricekerrigan.com.






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