Extinguishing Burnout

Feb 26, 2021


Grilling with charcoal briquets gives leaders insight into burnout. Learn to prevent flareups and control the heat during stressful seasons.

Four men went glamping, or glamorous camping, with a convoy of six vehicles including chauffeurs and a chef. During that luxury excursion, one man helped a second secure the raw material needed for building automobiles. The second man required about 100 board feet of wood for the “frame, running board, dashboard, and wheel spokes” for…you guessed it, each Model-T. Henry Ford was very passionate about his motto “reduce, reuse, and recycle” and insisted on repurposing the leftover stumps, branches, and sawdust.1, 2

So, in 1919, Ford’s chemist pressed the leftover debris from the sawmill together with tar and cornstarch creating a charcoal briquet. Brilliantly, Ford encouraged more driving activities by selling Picnic Kits which included portable grills and Ford Charcoal. Today, grilling aficionados share best practices for charcoal grilling.3 Coals start out cool and black, then burn red hot, and after all of the fuel has been spent, they cool to an ashy white. Just like coals, leaders can start out cool, full of energy, burn very hot for a while, and then cool off with no energy left. According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is “work-related stress-- a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” 4

Grilling with charcoal gives us insight into extinguishing job burnout:

  1. Igniting: First, remove old ash from the grill and then add fresh briquets that have been stored in a cool, dry place. We tend to start a new job or project fresh, too! Veninga and Spradley called it the Honeymoon Period. Unlike briquets, leaders can stay in this stage forever given their “patterns of coping are positive [and] adaptive.” 5
  2. Flaring Up: When preparing different foods, grillers create two grilling zones by putting the coals on one side. This also establishes a flame-free zone should a flare up occur. Leaders need to establish and maintain a flame-free zone, too! We must protect ourselves and our team against being taken for granted, mistreated, or overworked.
  3. Controlling: When grilling, vents are used to control oxygen levels. Too much O2 and coals overheat, too little and coals are extinguished. Job burnout is caused by extremes in our work efforts. Chaotic work and monotonous work are equally exhausting. Leaders must control how quickly they burn. Fatigue leads to burnout.

Thirty years after the first Picnic Kits were marketed, Ford Charcoal was sold and renamed to Kingsford Chemical Company in honor of Edward Kingsford-- the man who helped Ford secure the timberland all those years ago.6 Are you irritable on and off the job? Becoming increasingly cynical or critical? Lacking satisfaction with your recent achievements? Experiencing new physical symptoms or sleep interruptions? If so, you may be progressing toward a more permanent and severe stage of burnout. Establish positive and adaptive coping patterns, avoid getting burned at work, and balance hard work and with frequent periods of recovery. 

Sources1 Useless Knowledge: Who Made That Charcoal Briquette?2 Kingsford Products Company: An American Story3 Kingsford Products Company: How to Charcoal4 Mayo Clinic: Job Burnout: How to Spot It and Take Action5 Winona State University: Stages of Burnout6 Useless Knowledge: Who Made That Charcoal Briquette?.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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