Identifying and Dealing with Project Management Burnout

Is your job as a project manager making you feel angry, frustrated or that you just don’t care anymore? If so, you might be experiencing burnout. Some of the signs and symptoms of burnout include:

  • inability to concentrate
  • feeling everything is wrong and nothing is working out
  • emotional exhaustion
  • feeling trapped and/or powerless
  • irritability and frustration

It is important to note that burnout is not the same as stress. Stress usually involves “too much”. There are too many pressures or physical and psychological demands. Though burnout can be caused by stress it is about “not enough”. It means feeling empty with no motivation and being beyond the point of caring.

Burnout most often affects the top performers in an organization, such as a project manager. People who strive to be better and achieve success often drive themselves into burnout because they are unable to recognize the signs of stress, adapt their behavior or change their attitudes.

A project manager who is experiencing burnout might shut down or become apathetic. Some might even become self-destructive or strike out at co-workers without thinking. Silly mistakes occur because of the inability to think clearly. Ultimately, the burnout can cause the shirking of responsibility or the tendency to take the path of least resistance.

If you’re a project manager who has noticed burnout symptoms, create a list of of things that are improving and identify areas in need of improvement or attention. Also, identify areas of stagnation because that is most likely the cause of the burnout. Sometimes just identifying the problem can help lead to fixing it.

If you’re still feeling on the verge of burnout you might also try requesting a transfer, asking for new duties or maybe even taking some time off.

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  1. For project managers I’d point one sign of burnout: if you don’t like to take another big project after the previous one was finally finished. Usually project managers are people who like when thing doesn’t go as they were planned since that’s a bread and butter of project management (especially in software projects). If you start thinking about easy office day with no unplanned issue to resolve it probably time to move on.

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