The good news is that start-ups are still the most dynamic, innovative workplaces
out there. And for experienced workers,the stress of a start-up may be just the
challenge they need after proving themselves at a more established company. Avoiding
burnout at start-up is just a matter of knowing your abilities and limitations, and
communicating concerns to employers up front. Finding a company with a smart executive
management team is a good start, because savvy, responsive leaders can create a work
environment that is conducive to teamwork and values each individual's contribution.
Moreover, strong managers are more effective at managing their employees' time and
keeping workloads reasonable.
"A smart team doesn't get as much work put on it because the team leader makes
smart decisions early on," says Ramana Rao, CTO at Inxight Software, in Palo Alto,
Calif. "The good team leaders and first-level managers can manage people and not stress
Being an effective manager is more than making good decisions quickly, or
exhibiting leadership skills, says Michael Mosquito, CTO at BigClix.com, in Atlanta.
Part of a manager's job is to keep information flowing between the manager and
employee, opening free discussion and building trust.
"You can give them toys in the office, but you must spend time with them, listen to
their concerns, and do things with them," Mosquito says. "Most of all you need to tell
them they are doing a good job."
It's not all for money
Companies need to provide an incentive for employees to remain emotionally engaged
during stressful times, one analyst says.
"We're going to reach the point where accomplishment has to come from something
other than the IPO," says Diane Tunick Morello, an analyst at Gartner, in Stamford,
Conn. "They have to see something: A product gets accepted, it gets good press, it
becomes well known, etc. They need to feel a sense of accomplishment."
Without that reward, workers lose their motivation and the ability to cope with
"I think what actually happens is not that people cannot handle [the stress],"
Tunick Morello says. "They just refuse to do it."
Stress management is a two-way street. Employers need to make allowances where they
can by relaxing dress codes, allowing telecommuting, and giving personal days to
workers who need to recuperate from long workweeks. Workers are responsible for
managing their own stress levels, remaining engaged and productive on the job, and
communicating their concerns to managers to come up with solutions before a crisis
arises. Often burnout comes from employees' own unrealistic expectations of what they