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Today, brands’ front doors are their social media profiles—and you, the social media managers, are the gatekeepers. That is not an easy job.
Building an impactful, holistic social presence takes time, research, creativity and constant innovation. On top of that, you’re inundated with unexpected crises, emotionally charged consumer messages and constant change in social media trends. And you can’t just sign off or take a social media detox when the work becomes overwhelming. This constant balancing act can lead to burnout.
But I don’t have to tell you that. You’re a social media manager in 2020—you already know how this feels.
What I am here to tell you is that feeling burnt out does not mean you are incapable of doing your job. It does mean you need to ask for help and have a conversation with your supervisor. In this article, we’ll explore ways to have effective conversations about burnout with your boss, and we’ll provide specific prompts to help you get started.
Don’t suffer in silence
Your boss likely has lots of things competing for their attention, so they may not be aware that you’re struggling unless you speak up. And while it may be intimidating to start the conversation, a lot of good can come from leveling with your supervisor and being honest about the challenges you face in your role.
Before I met other SMMs on Twitter- I felt like I was the only one experiencing burnout, fatigue, continuous overwhelm and many daily challenges.
Thanks everyone for sharing your stories here, pulling back the curtain + creating a community that’s transparent and supportive!
— Jenn Crim (@jenncrim) August 12, 2020
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, a conversation with your manager will help you challenge assumptions that you’re making about your own role and responsibilities and bring any invisible expectations to light. For instance, are you overscheduling yourself? Why do you feel the need to work to the point of burnout? Does your boss know that you’re working late every night? Do they actually expect you to be able to respond to messages immediately or is that an expectation you put on yourself? Uncover those answers so you can recalibrate if needed.
Most, if not all, managers have been through a period of burnout themselves. In that case, they’ll have empathy for your situation as well as advice to get you back on track. Having a vulnerable conversation is also an opportunity to set new norms with your manager, like being transparent about your state of mind, feeling comfortable expressing blockers or even saying no when you don’t have the bandwidth.
Get the ball rolling
When you address burnout with your manager, you’ll need to get specific and provide context to help them understand what spurred on what you’re feeling. Here are a couple questions that can help you get to the root of the problem:
- What are your top priorities right now?
- What is holding you back from focusing on big picture projects?
- What is the most mentally draining aspect of your job?
- What tools or resources do you need to do your job more effectively?
- How do existing processes or management styles contribute to burnout?
- Is personal stress carrying over to work?
With an understanding of what challenge(s) you’re trying to solve, you can start the conversation with your boss more effectively.
When you’re ready to talk, it’s best to do it in person or via video call whenever possible, but getting it on your boss’s radar can start in writing with an email or Slack. Here are a few ways you can kick it off:
- I’ve been overwhelmed by the volume of messages I’ve been managing lately. Do you have time to chat about it this week?
- A lot of our recent projects have been really urgent. In our next one-on-one meeting, could we talk through top priorities?
- I’ve been putting out a lot of fires on social lately and it’s becoming unsustainable. Do you have time this week to chat about how we can get ahead of crises?
Propose solutions and demonstrate your value
Approach your conversation with some solutions in mind. Think about what “better” will look like for you. Maybe that’s more time to focus on big picture projects, minimizing working after hours, new resources to manage your workload or more open communication between you and your manager.
You’re not going to fix burnout in a single conversation, so start with a realistic and specific goal for your meeting. It will vary for each individual but here are a few suggestions:
- Align on priorities and expectations
- Implement a new or different process
- Determine where you need more support and identify teammates or external resources, like a temp or contractor, that could help
- Develop or reorganize timelines
- Communicate roadblocks
Remember, the focus of your conversation should be on the impact your burnout has on not only you, but your team and business. You want to have a productive conversation, not a vent session. This is more likely to happen when you can show how burnout directly impacts your productivity, focus at work, the rest of your team and overall marketing goals.
For example, you might say, “I’ve been unable to contribute to the business from a strategy perspective because I’ve been focused on execution and responding to inbound messages. If I had more time to hone in on our social data, I could bring really beneficial insights to the rest of the organization.” Showcasing how much more impact you could have on top line goals will inevitably pique your boss’s interest and make them invested in your recovery from burnout.
While you should have an idea of what might fix the problems at hand, the onus is not solely on you. Your supervisor can and should help solidify the proposed solutions. At the end of your conversation, reiterate your plan of action to your manager and clarify any remaining confusion or concerns.
Follow through and follow up
Once you enact your agreed-upon plan, be patient with yourself. Immediate relief is not guaranteed. When you feel like you’ve had enough time to make an assessment of how things are going, set aside time to reflect. What’s changed since you spoke with your boss? What is working? What is not?
If you’re still struggling after some time has passed and the solutions you came up with aren’t providing relief, don’t get down on yourself, clam up or accept defeat. You’ve already taken that first step—make it a point to follow up with your manager, continue the conversation and build off what was discussed initially. Together, you can decide how to tweak your original plan of action if it hasn’t been effective.
Lastly, follow up even if things are working! Your boss will want to know that you’re feeling more productive, supported and revitalized.
Get the support your deserve
Burnout is very real and pervasive in the social media marketing community. Restoring balance in your work life might feel like a big to-do when you’re burnt out, but you don’t need to go it alone. Communicating your struggles to your boss is brave, bold and the best way to get back on track.
If you’re having these conversations and things aren’t getting better, your boss isn’t as receptive as you’d hoped, you don’t feel psychologically safe at work or you’re in need of more mental health support, here are a few resources that may help: