I know that I do it; I do it too much. I know it is counterproductive to many objectives and I know that it sets a poor example for others in leadership positions. I am resolved to stop giving tacit approval.
What is tacit approval? It is giving “approval” by a lack of addressing something; the unintended consequence of silence is the implication of approval.
Let’s take a very simple example. Appropriate footwear in the restoration industry is a must. Someone reports to work and is walking around the warehouse in flip-flops. You see it, walk by it, say nothing and do nothing. As a leader, your silence is implying approval of wearing flip-flops to work. The next day someone else is wearing flip-flops; everyone in leadership sees it and says nothing. Next thing you know, you walk into work one day and you have a full-on flip-flop disaster with half the company in flip flops with toes exposed to danger everywhere.
Our culture and operating results are often a result of what everyone is consistently rallying around both in the “most important” operational movements to the values and behaviors. The things that stay front and center, get attention, and get talked about often become part of the organization’s everyday norm. Likewise, the details and performance issues that go unaddressed also can quickly become the norm, not through formal policy or declaration but via tacit approval. Tacit approval is related to the concept of accountability; however, the result is that it is literally perceived as approved and acceptable behavior.
I personally have had this experience with the policy of personal cell phone use during work hours. This is prohibited but often goes unaddressed. Every so often, we see an excess of personal cell phone use, do a crack-down, a couple of months later, the leadership (including myself) starts walking by as phone abuse happens and then once again, it is a problem. If it was consistently addressed in a positive and constructive manner by leadership, it would likely be less of a problem.
Tacit approval can be a problem with details like positioning cords that create tripping hazards or larger performance issues like failure to update job documentation according to company standards. Why is tacit approval committed?
Not wanting to seem difficult to please or picky.
Lack of time.
Our attention is drawn to other things.
Avoidance of confrontation.
My resolution stems from my Dad. A retired insurance executive, he has been coaching and developing the leadership in our organization for many years and has bestowed much valuable wisdom upon us. Thoughts from Dad, Paul Pinchak, affectionately referred to as our Senior Consultant:
Too often, managers use the following thought process:
“I’ll talk to him next week…” “I’ll wait until her review to bring this up.” “It’s really not that bad, maybe he’ll do better next time.”
Managers and supervisors at all levels need to be aware that by not addressing a work-related performance issue, an individual is likely to assume what they are doing is acceptable. The longer it goes on; the longer the reinforcement that all is well. The manager who puts off (sometimes indefinitely) talking to their subordinate on an issue that needs to be addressed is doing their organization and the employee a disservice. Is it always easy? No. Is it part of a manager’s responsibilities? Yes.
After nearly 20 years of lecturers about giving tacit approval and my own awareness of what I am doing, I have made this my new year’s resolution. No more tacit approval or excuses for giving it.
Why does Santa check his list twice? If we consider the practice of checking the list twice, we could speculate that there is a drive towards excellence and a desire to deliver legendary service. The list needs to be accurate and thorough; the list allows him to honor his commitments efficiently, and list is what is used to make sure that nobody is disappointed; so, he checks it twice.
Mistakes happen! Sometimes things go wrong and it’s not even human error, it just happens. When something goes wrong and we apply root cause problem solving which unveils that if we had checked our work, we could have avoided the issue, perhaps, there is a simple solution. Can problems be reduced with a little checking? Yes!
As a casual observation, when work habits include self-checking and processes that account for double checking things, the result is fewer errors, mistakes, and problems. As an ability, we may call it conscientiousness. Considering that errors, mistakes, and problems can have a ripple of disastrous consequences in our restoration organizations; it is deserving of some attention.
Have you ever wondered how someone gave you a message with the wrong phone number? It is likely because the number was not read back to the person who gave it to them. This is an example of a very basic self-check that everyone should be trained to do in the organization. When someone gives an email and/or phone number, you always read it back to them to make sure you recorded the very important contact information perfectly. Being just one number off can make the difference between your ability to respond to a loss and/or honor the commitment to call a person back or not. It’s a big deal and can be proactively managed by the work habit to double check.
As I walked into work one morning, I complimented a coworker on the speed and quality he executed in the reconstruction of a bathroom that experienced a water loss. He thanked me and qualified his response by explaining that he needed to go back that morning. He explained that the tank of the toilet leaked, and it needed a few parts. He had removed and reset the toilet. Since I had been pondering about an individual’s work habits and the ability to self-check work, as well as the supporting processes in the organization, I began to question him.
“How did you know the toilet was not working properly?”
“I flushed it to make sure it was working after I re-installed it.”, he responded.
“Why did you do that?”
As he looked at me with some dismay at my line of questioning, I answered for him, “Because you always check your work!?”
As I pondered, in over five years, I could not recall a defect or workmanship issue regarding the work of this individual.
I don’t know if he was specifically taught these work practices, if it is innate to him, or if he learned from mistakes; but I do know that I thought, what if everyone did that?
Equipment: Equipment would never be left behind. Even with the application of the software that tells you a piece of equipment is left on-site, if the person who installed it failed to scan it to the site, it can be left behind. A quick walk-through in the spirit of double-checking that all equipment is pulled can eliminate the call, “You left an air mover here.”
Repairs: Some trades lend themselves to easy checks. Install a faucet? Check that it works properly and is not leaking by turning it on. Some trades require the detailed eye of a craftsman: is the drywall paint ready?
The examples of problems that can be reduced by checking are endless as are the potential solutions. It applies to everything from field execution to office, administration, marketing, accounting, etc. Here is a brief list to get started on helping our organizations and teams to improve with a little checking:
Organizational processes can support and contribute to checking in the spirit of reducing errors. A simple example is a co-worker double checking, inspecting (and signing off as “inspected”) contents before they get packaged for storage and/or returned to the customer.
Reconciliation is a concept that is often associated with accounting functions. A bank reconciliation is a check and balance that everything that is recorded in the accounting system is in perfect alignment with the bank system. Any discrepancy is identified and corrected. Reconciliation as a process can be applied to many areas within your company. As a simple example:
10 water losses to be monitored 10 monitorings are scheduled 10 readings/maps get submitted at day end 0 Steps were missed
Culture and Training always have a global impact in our operations and outcomes. We can incorporate checks (self-regulation) into the training of skills and tasks within the organization. Culturally, we should celebrate and hold people accountable to their level of conscientiousness in the performance of their work and be prepared to coach and develop them on improvements.
A little time in double-checking can have exponential value in time wasted and service-related issues.
This is the first article of a multi-part series on employee burnout in the restoration industry. Part one introduces the nature of burnout and summarizes findings from a study on burnout in the restoration industry. Part two begins a discussion on things restoration companies can do to manage one of the most complicating factors for burnout among restoration professionals – workload. Part three advances the conversation and discusses what restoration professionals can do at the individual level to manage workloads more effectively.
Since the 1990s, experts have been declaring burnout levels are reaching epidemic proportions among North American workers (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). Since that time, most people would probably agree that work-related stressors have only intensified with the proliferation of metrics, technology, and the need to be “on” all the time. A recent study by Gallup (Wigert & Agrawal, 2018) surveyed 7,500 full-time employees in the United States and reported that 67% of the respondents experienced feelings of burnout on the job. Another study by Deloitte (2018) surveyed 1,000 full-time professionals in the United States and reported that 77% of respondents said they had experienced burnout in their current job. In addition, the World Health Organization announced it would be revising its definition of burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, effective Jan. 1, 2022. One of the primary changes will be how burnout is classified—this revision will involve a change in classification from “a type of psychological stress” to a “syndrome.”
Disaster restoration professionals operate in a niche of the construction industry that is inherently stressful. Their work often demands being on call and working long hours under stressful and dangerous conditions following fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and a variety of other catastrophic events to structures. In addition, there are performance demands driven by metrics related to response times, project completion rates, customer service, and many other factors. Such conditions make restoration professionals more susceptible to burnout; therefore, it is important to understand the nature of burnout and how the effects may be mitigated.
“Burnout is defined as a crisis in a person’s relationship with their work, as well as a syndrome of three distinct feelings that comprise the dimensions of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy (Masiach & Leiter, 1997)”.
The reasons for burnout can be complex and are addressed at length in many studies and books that have been published on the topic over the past few decades. Many have debated the reasons for burnout, whether occasional feelings of burnout can be good for someone, the complexity of burnout and the degree to which non-work factors may contribute to feelings of burnout on the job (and vice-versa), and where future inquiries into the subject should focus—among other topics. While many of these factors are still being debated and explored, there are many things scholars and professionals have come to understand about burnout and agree upon. Specifically, it is important to understand that some industries have higher burnout rates than others and that contextual factors such as organizational culture and the capacity to cope with stress within individuals vary widely.
Regardless, there is much for an industry to gain by having a deeper understanding of employee burnout among professionals and to explore strategies for improving the health and lives of its members. The primary goal of this article is to discuss the nature of burnout, share findings from a recent study on burnout within the restoration industry, and begin a practical discussion related to how we, as an industry, can seek to thrive with the inherent challenges the industry faces. We hope many productive conversations develop from this article.
Restoration is a great industry that does great work for the great people of our society. It is inherently challenging and stressful, but rewarding for those who enjoy working hard and doing good work for good people in need. This article seeks to candidly discuss the challenges of burnout for restoration professionals and begin a productive conversation on how we, as an industry, can do our work in a rewarding, enjoyable, productive, and effective manner.
Burnout is defined as a crisis in a person’s relationship with their work, as well as a syndrome of three distinct feelings that comprise the dimensions of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
Dimensions of Burnout
The three dimensions of burnout help us understand the primary characteristics of burnout and provide insight into the nature of the burnout experience.
Exhaustion: The feeling of being overextended and physically and emotionally drained. “[It] is the first reaction to the stress of job demands or major change” (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). When someone is feeling exhausted, they lack energy and are unable to unwind and recover (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
Cynicism: Leads to people developing a distant attitude toward work and the people surrounding them at work. In a sense, it is a defense mechanism that is deployed to protect oneself from exhaustion and disappointment (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
Professional Efficacy: Relates to feelings of effectiveness and adequacy regarding a person’s work. Accomplishment is vital and it is important for professional development and self-confidence. As someone loses confidence in themselves others lose confidence in them (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
(Sources of Burnout)
Equally important to understanding the components of the burnout phenomenon it is essential to examine the primary sources that influence exhaustion. There are six sources of burnout that mediate feelings of exhaustion:
Summary of Findings from a Recent Study
A recent study on burnout conducted by two of this article’s authors, Dr. Avila and Dr. Rapp, sought to explore the nature of burnout and worklife context (sources of burnout) among restoration industry professionals (Avila & Rapp, 2019). We distributed a survey that consisted of a demographic questionnaire, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, (MBI), the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), and a set of exit questions that gauged respondents’ turnover intentions. A total of 318 respondents completed the entire survey.
The results on burnout revealed that, when compared to other industries, restoration professionals were experiencing higher levels of exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. The researchers had not anticipated this interesting finding. The model, as discussed in earlier in this article, suggests that as exhaustion increases, cynicism increases, and professional efficacy decreases. Why would restoration professionals have increased professional efficacy when the mediating factors suggest they should be experiencing the opposite? Is it their resilience? While years could be spent studying this to find an explanation we aren’t going to be doing that. It is time for a practical discussion. We know restoration professionals experience burnout so it is imperative for us to discuss why we think this is the case and what we (professionals and employers) can do to mitigate the effects of burnout.
“Results of the six sources of burnout found that workload was the only source having a statistically significant effect on exhaustion for restoration professionals.”
Moving forward, an important part of the discussion on burnout should explore the reasons restoration professionals would experience burnout in a manner that is so unique and different from other industries. What factors do we think are contributing to this dynamic? Could findings on the sources of burnout help us understand how and/or why restoration professionals would experience burnout in the manner the study has revealed? Could the amount of hours restoration professionals work be contributing to them having a high sense of professional efficacy? Could factors related to the number of years they have worked in the industry influence their sense of professional efficacy?
Results of the six sources of burnout found that workload was the only source having a statistically significant effect on exhaustion for restoration professionals. From this point, the researchers had to look to answers respondents provided in the demographic questionnaire at the beginning of the survey. There were two primary data points in the demographic questionnaire where the researchers discovered correlations to workload:
Number of hours worked: Respondents self-reported the number of hours worked and the average was 52 hours per week; however, some respondents reported working more than 80 hours per week. As the number of hours increased, the respondents were move likely to report a heavier workload.
Number of subordinates: Respondents self-reported the number of subordinates supervised and this finding was negatively correlated with perceptions of workload. As the number of subordinates supervised increased the respondents were more likely to report a heavier workload.
While workload, in itself, can involve many factors, we will explore ways in which it can be managed effectively at the company and individual levels. In the second part of this series, we will start to discuss how to manage the burnout.
The authors wish to extend special thanks to the members of Business Networks who have graciously shared their experiences, NextGear Solutions who opened the door for public discussion on these topics among restoration professionals, and other industry professionals who have engaged us on the development of the study throughout the entire process. Thank you for the support, feedback, and valuable insight.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
It is not uncommon for company leadership to become frustrated by inconsistencies in our organization’s most basic functions. Everything from job documentation, to proper equipment placement or to putting a piece of equipment back where it belongs can create a tidal wave of inefficiencies and frustrations.
If training, procedures and expectations include the opportunity to engage and involve the team, it may increase engagement and results. This can be done by giving the team understanding. When we take the time to explain the value to the organization and the consequences of not doing something as prescribed, you give the gift of understanding even the most basic functions.
Sometimes things do not get consistently executed because the person who likely is continually reprioritizing the day may not realize or understand the importance of the task at hand or realize the consequence of not doing it right or at all. Our technology allows for ease of execution, but it does not replace the need to engage the team at a higher level to help give them understanding.
A simple example is the failure to document one meaningful note in a job. The implication can be far reaching: Unable to answer a simple question when the customer calls, inability to tell the complete story of the job, implications to the billing, estimate, or collection of payment, and ultimately liability and vulnerability to the organization. Consider the fact that the item that was not documented could be regarding a pre-existing condition of a $10,000 area rug!
All of these issues may be avoided if the team consistently utilized their iRestore documentation system. In a matter of 30 seconds or less, it can be as easy as hitting the add job note button, hitting the voice record button and recording the note with voice to text.
Where did our new tagline “Powering your Vision, Values & Leadership” come from? At iRestore, we believe in being your complete solution to operating your restoration company effectively and efficiently. We are a user-friendly tool that serves your company by serving the individuals and the team while supporting excellence in service. However, true success comes from the Vision, Values, and Leadership within your organization. We provide the system and support through our software that is designed by restorers for restorers. We will help you in “Powering your Vision, Values & Leadership.” Learn more about our thoughts on core and shared values by reading my Restoration & Remediation article “Restoring Success: Core and Shared Values.” You can find all of my monthly Restoring Success articles here.
The Concept of Core and Shared Values
Whether your organization has them or not, they exist. You may have to dig a little and reflect. If you are a new company, this may seem like a fruitless task, but there is no better time than when you are starting out and beginning to build the organization to develop a set of shared values. If you know what they are but don’t have them in writing, take a time out and get them down on paper.
Your shared values can define who you are as a company – it’s your personality and can serve as a compass as you grow. They should be shared with prospective new employees so they know the values of the company, and they should be reviewed and chanted as a team in your company meetings so that they are always the part of each person delivering your service.
If you do not have a set of shared values yet, here is a little help to get you started:
1. Maintain a positive and open work environment by providing honest and constructive feedback on job performance.
2. Be sensitive and responsive to the needs of the communities where we live and do business.
3. Take pride in your presentation and professionalism as a company.
4. Aggressively seek opportunities to grow and improve your business.
Around 10 statements that reflect your values as an organization can serve you well for years to come. Make it your own.
Of course, it’s easy to just put these values on paper. The challenging part comes when you have to ask yourself if the values are truly being reflected in the day-to-day operations of your business.
We have all heard the saying “it starts at the top.” To make your shared values align with your operations, it starts with the leadership. Owners and managers should start with themselves and behaviors should be reflective of your company values. Hold each other accountable to shared values. Acting contrary to a shared value is very harmful to an organization and those acting contrary need to be held accountable. Conversely, reward those who live by the values.