Burned Out in the Family Business

If you’re feeling burned out in the family business, you’re not alone. It can happen when you’re feeling overwhelmed by business problems or prolonged tension in a relationship or any number of reasons. Whatever the cause, burnout doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s practically impossible to fix when you’re right in the middle of it. Before it threatens your health, work and relationships, learn to recognize three sources that can lead to burnout – boundaries, balance and boredom.   

It’s obvious that we’re all dealing with a fair amount of stress these days. The work day is getting longer and so are our commutes. We’re living in an “always-on” culture where notifications keep us in a constant state of high alert. Now add the additional challenge of balancing business and family and it’s easy to see why you might be especially susceptible to burnout. 

When you work in a non-family business, your coworkers don’t know you like your family members do. When the work day is done, you go home to your family and focus on that part of your life.  But when you’re part of a family business, it’s not so easy to keep boundaries between work time and personal time. It takes some effort to keep them separate and distinct, but it can greatly reduce your stress. 

Another classic path to burnout is having unrealistic expectations in the relentless pursuit of your goals. It’s a blessing when you love your business so much that you’re willing to work long hours over an extended number of years. It’s a curse when you don’t realize that you’ve moved past the healthy balance point. 

When you’re feeling driven by work, it’s also easy to put off physical needs so that you can “get this one thing done.” Unfortunately, that “one thing” turns into the “next thing” and the next and the next. There’s a big difference between having energy and working off adrenaline. So as simple as it sounds, when you’re tired, rest. When you’re hungry, eat. It’s a simple but effective way to break a cycle that can lead to burnout. 

On the other hand, sometimes the cause of burnout isn’t having too many challenges, it’s not feeling challenged at all. We all get bored with our work at times and it happens to even the brightest, most ambitious of us. Left unattended though, boredom can lead to burnout. So keep your business life interesting. Widen your circle of contacts. See what’s going on out in the field or down on the shop floor. Visit with a customer or one of your employees. Shake up your routine. While there’s no instant cure, any action is better than sitting around being bored or in a bad mood. 

If you’re interested in passing on the company you’ve built to the next generation, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul. So is it really better to burn out than to rust out? When it comes to your family business, we don’t think so. 



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