Dr. Geri Puleo: Burnout and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at TEDxSetonHillUniversity (Transcript)

Dr. Geri Puleo

Here is the full transcript of burnout & change management expert Dr. Geri Puleo’s TEDx Talk: Burnout and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at TEDxSetonHillUniversity conference. This event occurred on February 19, 2014.

Dr. Geri Puleo – President/CEO, Change Management Solutions

Nice people! Thank you so much! That’s me, obviously.

Well, hey everybody. My name’s Geri Puleo, and I’m going to be your next speaker. And what we’re going to be talking about today is Burnout and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

So, let me ask you a question: how many of you in here have ever been burned out? OK, how many of you didn’t raise your hand but said, “I don’t want anybody to know that I was burned out, because I’m sitting right beside my supervisor or boss?”

Well, burnout is rampant in the modern workplace. I think we all admit that. There’s a lot of things that cause burnout.

And about 14 years ago, I was like six at the time — about 14 years ago, I started on a quest. And what I was trying to discover was the answer to three questions. Number one: what causes burnout? Now you think that’s pretty easy, right? Everybody knows what causes burnout. You know, it’s work overload. It’s a lousy boss. You don’t know what you want, etc, etc. But I wasn’t sure about that.

Secondly: what maintains burnout? Now, for all of you who have been burned out, how long do you feel like you were burned out? A day? You’re looking at me like, “Yeah, a day, that’s right.” A month? A year? Burnout lasts a very long time.

So what I was trying to figure out is: okay, burnout gets caused, but why do we keep staying burned out? It doesn’t make sense, because all of you who’ve burned out, did you like that feeling? Yeah, you’re looking at me like, “She’s really nuts now,” right? But you didn’t like the feeling but why did you continue to be burned out? What was going on?

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So then I started asking: well, how can we avoid burnout or if you’re already burned out, how do you overcome it and come out on the other side? Well, what that led up to is something that I call “B-DOC.” B-DOC is a Burnout During Organizational Change Model, and B-DOC is just a lot faster to say than Burnout During Organizational Change Model. This model was developed when I was doing my dissertation for my PhD, and I interviewed, very sensibly, people who had burned out to find out what was really going on. How did they burn out? Why did they burn out? How did they come out from it? What was going on?

And if you look at this, what I noticed – and I was focusing during organizational change – is all the people who burned out were the star employees. They were the ones that give me 110%. These were the ones who said, “I can do it. Give me more! Give me more!” But the problem is things happen, and they started getting frustrated. Maybe they didn’t have the resources. Maybe they had a boss who took credit for all of their hard work. What do you think happened after they got frustrated? They got angry.

I had one participant, a very intelligent man who said, “Well, I was a sales manager, and my best sales rep and I got into it. When we came back out in the bull pen, everybody was gone, and the pictures were skewed on all the walls.” He left the industry totally because the anger he could no longer control. After the anger, there’s some self-preservation that starts coming in. And these employees started becoming apathetic.

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