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Leadership,  Self-leadership,  Stress Management,  Work Culture

High Achievers’ Burnout: Let’s Invest in Human Skills In the Era of AI

Recently, I had a session with Ana, a highly accomplished Vice President at a corporate firm. Ana looked exhausted. She understands she’s been overworking, leaving no room for rest and recuperation. Despite this awareness, her inner worry about disappointing others prevents her from relaxing, even after logging off in the evening. This constant pressure is pushing her towards extreme exhaustion and burnout.

Ana’s experience is far from unique. Harsha Perera’s article on the different paths to burnout highlights white-collar burnout, a form of exhaustion not due to physically demanding tasks but rather psychological and existential pressures. This burnout stems from the relentless need to prove one’s worth by achieving certain career milestones in prestigious organizations. It’s the exhaustion of trying to meet arbitrary goals and striving for career success.

It’s no surprise that my article, “Are You Sabotaged By Your Inner Hyper-Achiever?” resonates with many. I shared how I coached a leader named Jason to recognize that his hyper-achiever mindset was just one part of him. Over several months, Jason learned to balance this with his easy-going side, which he had neglected. Regular mindfulness practice helped him shift his focus from constant validation through high-pressure tasks to more meaningful contributions like mentoring, coaching, and strategic planning. As a result, Jason felt more accomplished and experienced less chaos in his daily life.

How much do organizations lose when their high achievers are driven by worries and anxieties like Ana and Jason? How can leaders and managers develop the skills to understand and address these human drivers? What is the value of implementing AI for our businesses if our top performers are declining in emotional energy?

Gallup’s report corroborates this critical issue: “…the bad news is that employee stress has also increased. Stress is associated with physical and mental health problems and lower productivity. This rise in employee stress emphasizes the importance of organizations simultaneously addressing employee engagement and wellbeing in the current and future workforce.”

Shifting worry-driven hyper-achiever mindsets is not easy. Sustainable change requires serious coaching and a favorable company culture. We need senior leaders who instill and inspire positive motivation—play, purpose, and potential—and discourage anxiety-driven ones. Let’s deliberately invest in these invaluable human skills essential in our increasingly digital world.

Featured image: Geralt at pixabay.com

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