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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Robinson Bruner

Burnout: From Denial to Action

Updated: Mar 27

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This past week, I’ve had a lot of individuals reach out to me about how to deal with burnout. In particular, I have a friend who worked for an organization that was in denial of their burnout culture. The workload never seemed to end. A new project was always on the horizon without the completion of previous tasks. There was an expectation that staff were available or willing to work outside of business hours, without pay or flex-time 😬 on a regular basis. Organizational values were all the rage in theory but not in practice. Everyone knew there were major problems, which was evident by the turnover rate. It was an isolating environment that stifled creativity, was psychologically unsafe, treated staff unfairly, had control issues and was the model of a burnout culture.

That’s her side.

The organization felt they were successful in achieving their metrics for business and been able to sustain their business model over many years. Basically, they were doing work that mattered as a company.

The problem is how they did this great work. They had high turnover and those who stayed were disengaged. Often times there was mumbling among coworkers about the problems within the organization with little talk about the mission or the impact of their work. This organization like many others was in denial about their workplace culture. The Gallup Poll states that ½ of the 7,500 employees they surveyed experienced burnout at least sometimes.

That means it’s happening in your organization for someone to some degree. We’re covered how that impacts productivity. But now, it’s time to move from denial to acceptance and then to action. So, I had to research how do we get from denial to acceptance. The only thing I could find was the Kübler-Ross model on the Five Stages of Grief.

It feels like this model will help us to move past the denial of burnout, accept the reality of this toxic culture and lead organizations to the action of correcting it. Let’s try it and start moving through the stages so you can accept the burnout culture.


In some cases, a short period of denial can be helpful to begin processing the current situation. It helps us to pace our feelings towards burnout to some extent.

For example, staff start a new job and everything seems to be going well. But things started getting worse. Now, they have a calloused outlook and no one feels like they are doing a good job.

 Some organizations are in a state of shock and denial. They go numb. To them, burnout isn’t happening. If you’re turnover is higher than normal or your organizational climate survey has revealed some disconcerting data, then, yes, this is for you. Denial will look like you explaining away the high turnover or survey data. It must mean something else. The data can’t be telling the truth. The organization is fine. Everyone else is the problem. To move forward you have to begin to ask yourself (or your staff) questions to wake to the reality of the situation. At the very least do an organization-wide assessment of burnout in your culture (BTW. Glad●ED Solutions can help with that). I know organizations that have been in denial for 20-30 years. It’s time to move on to another level.


woman biting a pencil while staring at laptop

Once you get the data back, take a moment to let it settle in and use the information to improve and grow.

Some organizations may get angry with the staff and consider them ungrateful for the crumbs they were given. I’ve seen organizations roll back benefits offered when staff voice their displeasure with the company. Because it’s their fault for not taking care of themselves and managing their stress.

I get it. No one wants to hear they’re doing a bad job, especially if they are working hard on the very thing they’re being criticized on. But to grow and help your organization, you have to take employees’ perspective into consideration when developing a plan that impacts employees.


You know there’s a problem and it’s impacting staff as well as the turnover rate. So as an organization, you focus on individual cases. You work with a specific staff member to keep that one person there. You offer someone flexible hours to not leave. Or tell them they don’t have to work on that new project they did not like. You concede to individuals’ wills and bargain with them rather than looking at the problem from a wider perspective ang getting to the root of the issue.


Now, you know it is burnout on an organizational-level. But, changing organizational culture is hard. Maybe, it is too hard. This overwhelming task feels hopeless. There may be certain people or processes that are acting as roadblocks on the path to a better future. These roadblocks have been there for decades. So, you feel like there is no point in even trying. There is nothing you can do about this situation.

For those of you in this phase, I want you to know that there is hope. After we’ve stop trying to recreate the past, our attention can turn to the present. You can turn your organization around. Glad●ED Solutions is here for you to do that. We have clear, concise and engaging training sessions that provide you with the actionable strategies to move forward to ...


man reaching up to a building

🥳 Congratulations!  🎉

You believe at least some of your staff is experiencing burnout based on what they told you, which data shows impacts productivity and turnover. You recognize it is an organizational problem with the culture. And you believe you can move past it into a state of engagement. This not the final stop on your journey. It is about accepting the reality of the situation. But, this realization is necessary to move into action and finally deal with the situation of burnout. There is hope

Register for an upcoming class. For the sake of your employees, work units, productivity, turnover rates, and the welfare of your organization. About the Author

Natalie Robinson Bruner

Natalie Robinson Bruner helps organizations develop systems and implement strategies that engage their workforce by offering a three-stage process of training, planning and offering individualized consulting. By using research, experience, case studies, pragmatic solutions, humor, engaging activities and her own secret sauce; Natalie delivers a powerful message about engaging staff. In a fast-changing world, we need information that engages the organization resulting in realizing a purpose-driven mission, reducing turnover, and impacting the bottom line. Her clients include large to medium-sized businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Glad●ED Solutions develops succinct, research-based, experienced-informed training coupled with a pragmatic action plan for implementation. We are more than the fly-by-night training. Glad●ED Solutions offers creative solutions for personal and organizational development through corporate training, individual coaching and special events to support career advancement.

Connect with Natalie on LinkedIn and visit her at

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