How Leaders Can Prevent Employee Burnout with Janice Litvin on The Healers Café with Manon Bolliger

In this episode of The Healers Café, Manon Bolliger, FCAH, RBHT (facilitator and retired naturopath with 30+ years of practice) chats with Janice Litvin about the negative effects of burnout and how to prevent it in the workplace.



Highlights from today’s episode include:

Janice Litvin  04:44

But did you know that as early as 2018 66% of American workers were already beginning to suffer from burnout? And of course, that number went up after the pandemic ensued.


Janice Litvin  06:10

So, burnout can also come when you are excited, and you are connected to your bigger purpose. Because some people, myself included, get so enmeshed in their work, they forget that family time and family life is equally as important and exhilarating. And so, people get so passionate about their work, they forget to set boundaries around their work time.

– – – – –


Janice Litvin  09:27

So, interestingly, the true definition of burnout is somebody who was so mentally and emotionally exhausted, that they can’t function in the way that they could before they need a major break. If they can get out of bed, they’re lucky.


Janice Litvin is on a mission to help leaders and teams banish burnout in their organizations. She does this through keynotes, workshops and cohort coaching groups.

Her workshops take teams through the journey of uncovering their emotional tangles and then changing the way they react to stress. Then she teaches them how to push back and set healthy boundaries. All of this leads to behavior change, burnout prevention and increased employee retention.

She also teaches managers how to prevent burnout for their teams.

Janice is the president of National Speakers Association of Northern California, and is a member of SHRM, MPI, and ProVisors. For SHRM she is a Recertification Provider and her book, Banish Burnout Toolkit is part of the SHRM Recertification Library.

Janice keeps audiences engaged with stories, humor and audience interaction. For fun she leads Zumba Fitness classes.

Core purpose/passion: I’m passionate about helping people overcome their emotional tangles buried deep inside formed in childhood. My contention is that most people come to work with unresolved emotional baggage, which comes out at inopportune times.

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As a recently De-Registered board-certified naturopathic physician & in practice since 1992, I’ve seen an average of 150 patients per week and have helped people ranging from rural farmers in Nova Scotia to stressed out CEOs in Toronto to tri-athletes here in Vancouver.

My resolve to educate, empower and engage people to take charge of their own health is evident in my best-selling books:  ‘What Patients Don’t Say if Doctors Don’t Ask: The Mindful Patient-Doctor Relationship’ and ‘A Healer in Every Household: Simple Solutions for Stress’.  I also teach BowenFirst™ Therapy through Bowen College and hold transformational workshops to achieve these goals.

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Welcome to the Healers Café. Conversations on health and healing with Manon Bolliger. A retired and deregistered naturopathic physician with 30 plus years of experience. Here, you will discover engaging and informative conversations between experienced healers, covering all aspects of healing, the personal journey, the journey of the practitioner, and the amazing possibilities for our own body, and spirit.

Manon Bolliger  00:13

Welcome to the Healers Café. And today I have with me, Janice Litvin, and she’s on a mission today to help leaders and teams banishing burnout in their organizations. So, I’m very much looking forward to find out how you got to that and why you did that. And you know, you started off leaving fitness classes. And so, what was this evolution? And please, welcome and tell us more.


Janice Litvin  00:45

Thank you. I’m so delighted to be here. Thank you so much. It all started with the ’08 meltdown, economic meltdown. I had been doing tech recruiting for 20 years. And, you know, after about 18 years, I was ready for change. But I didn’t quite know which way to go. And I was doing, I was successful, so I kept on going. And then in a way, ’09-2010, there was no work. So, there was no recruiting, and I had to figure out something else to do. And I have to tell you, it was the first time in my life that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had done earlier in my career, I had done software consulting, and training and working with people on what they want to do, what this new IBM PC box was on their desk. And at one point, an old boss had called me and said, I think I need your help finding a DB to DBA. I was not a recruiter at the time, I didn’t know what a DBA was, even though I was in the tech world, it was a new phenomenon. And I successfully found him a DB to DBA. And I’m like, Wow, I’m a recruiter now. And so, I went along recruiting for 20 years without worrying about what to do next. And suddenly I was stuck. And so, what I did know was that I needed to get back in shape. So I went to the gym, dropped my son off at school every single day. Went to the gym every day, from like nine to three or whatever, I began to make friends there and I found Zumba Fitness there. And I have a love of dance my whole life. And back in the back of my mind, I thought wouldn’t it be fun to teach fitness classes which I had done many years before for about a year. And so, I became…I fell in love with Zumba became a Zumba Fitness Instructor. And then after a couple of years, I thought you know, I do need a new challenge, a new mental challenge. And so I began, I got involved with the American Heart Association. As I was telling you before, I became certified through an organization called NASM, to become a personal trainer and certified in group fitness. And through that I began to get more and more knowledge about everything around being a trainer, the mental as well as the physical. And so, I decided to start with the American Heart Association, I went around and started doing talks on heart health, which is physical and mental. And it’s not just about your heart, it’s about your whole life, of course. And from there, I started getting requests to speak about generic workplace wellness, which is the corporate world around health, physical and mental health. And then from there, a client called one day and said, We want you to do a talk about stress. But we don’t want mindfulness or meditation, we want you to go deep. And I years ago had been in therapy. So, I thought, well, I can go …


very deep. And I also had more recent research about social psychology. And from there, I developed my banish burnout program.


Manon Bolliger  03:52

Wow, okay. Okay. Because I was gonna say, you know, it’s a rare story. That doesn’t start, even if at the time you don’t know it, but you know, pulling from one’s own sort of health experience, right. And, yeah, so anyway, I’m not surprised, let’s say, of the non-coincidence of this, but so tell us a little bit. You know, you’ve created a program about burnout in 2008. So, the context would be economic crash. Clearly, what was the why were people burnt out? Like, could you sort of explain a little bit what it was like, because I think we’re heading in the same direction?


Janice Litvin  04:44

Well yes, with the pandemic, everything is exacerbated. But did you know that as early as 2018 66% of American workers were already beginning to suffer from burnout? And of course, that number went up after the pandemic ensued. And so what people…And there a lot of reasons people are burned out; too much work, unreasonable deadlines, managers who don’t support them, or ask them their opinion, who just lay rules on them, not giving them enough autonomy with their work and asking them, what are you good at and helping them uncover what their true strengths are within the context of the of the job they have. And the other biggie is that people want more purpose in their work, they want to feel like they’re not just helping this one organization, but that there’s a bigger purpose that their work is aligned to.


Manon Bolliger  05:36

Yeah. Well, I mean, it makes sense. I mean, that seems to be what a lot of people who are a lot of people leaving lost their jobs or, you know, had to stop. And that’s a lot of the complaints. It’s exactly feeling like, they didn’t matter and what they did matter.


Janice Litvin  05:57

Right. Right. Yeah.


Manon Bolliger  06:00

And so, and burnout kind of comes because there’s no point continuing to see and live life that way. Right?


Janice Litvin  06:10

Well, yes, and. So, burnout can also come when you are excited, and you are connected to your bigger purpose. Because some people, myself included, get so enmeshed in their work, they forget that family time and family life is equally as important and exhilarating. And so, people get so passionate about their work, they forget to set boundaries around their work time.


Manon Bolliger  06:40

But do you think that’s true of entrepreneurs as well?


Janice Litvin  06:43

Yes, absolutely. Very much so. Especially in the early days of their business.


Manon Bolliger  06:49

Right. So, the passion alone that doesn’t, doesn’t give a person everything that they need, basically, they need to have family life health.


Janice Litvin  07:03

Absolutely. Yes. Yes, they need exercise, they need healthy eating, they need all those things. They need time away from their work as much as they love it. They do need time and your brain needs the rest.


Manon Bolliger  07:14

Yeah, yeah, no, I’ve definitely heard people saying that they took a so-called sabbatical, because they had enough. And they realized that when they came back to a work that they liked, and so not one of those burnouts, I shouldn’t use the word burnout, these sort of devoid of purpose jobs, but something they love that they were much more able to, to move forward with many more ideas that the break was essential. And it’s interesting, because it’s not deeply incorporated in our culture, right?


Janice Litvin  07:50

Well, I mean, in a way, it, yes. And in a way it is, in a way it isn’t. I mean, we in general, we work five days a week, and we have a break on Saturday and Sunday. Some people still work on Saturday, or they do other work on the weekends, we have a noon theoretically something like a noontime break for lunch. In some companies…interestingly enough, in some companies, the culture is such that people, they might go out and buy their lunch, but they don’t eat away that the corporate culture, which is horrible, is such that they are eating at their desk, and they’re continuing to work, which is so horrible. And then with the pandemic, when they’re the lines were blurred, because everyone was home working. Where was the…where was this differentiation? What was beginning time? What was ending time? What if you had children that needed caring for in the middle of the day, especially little children who had to get on Zoom to go to school, and then mothers, not just mothers, but mostly mothers stopping in the middle of the day to work with their children, and then coming back to work after dinner, to finish their own work? And so, you know, break became like, what’s a break?


Manon Bolliger  09:04

Ya know, for sure, so what is it tell us a little bit about your program and the impact that it’s had? Yeah, some…yeah. And more about really understanding burnout because it’s a term that, you know, people use very easily saying oh so burnt out. And it’s like what does it mean?


Janice Litvin  09:27

You know, well, okay. So, interestingly, the true definition of burnout is somebody who was so mentally and emotionally exhausted, that they can’t function in the way that they could before they need a major break. If they can get out of bed, they’re lucky. They take up something like swimming or art or horseback riding something that’s just totally relaxing and makes them happy. And it takes anywhere from who knows weeks to months to overcome true, true burnout. You’re right We have all started using the word Oh, I’m so burned out. Technically, the World Health Organization in 2019, came out with a definition of burnout, that meant chronic workplace stress that had not been successfully managed. So work was becoming so stressful and ongoing, that people couldn’t see past their own noses constantly getting emails at nights and weekends, and way too much work. And just too much, just too much.


Manon Bolliger  10:31

So, so how do you…I mean, one, one could say, well, that’s just a reality of the workplace on some level, because the, you know, the owners have to compete in the world. And then there’s, you know, there’s people who have different work ethics that are fine working insane hours, just to get it done. Like, there’s a cultural component to that sometimes at least I’ve seen it in practice, you know, I can tell like, okay, these, these people are more likely to have done it because of this or that reason, or whatever. And so how do you approach this? How do you like, give us a scenario?


Janice Litvin  11:22

Well first of all, I remind people, that if they get burned out, they will leave, and then the company is left with a hole in the productivity. And without the people, there is no productivity, there is no company, there’s no bottom line. So, I try to remind managers, leaders and everyone that if you burn your people out, your company will not make it. And so, the culture needs to be refined. So, in my opinion, burnout comes from two places, either the person’s internal way of dealing with things that they overreact and let things bother them to an extreme way, which quite often is learned behavior, or the environment they’re in. In theory, their workplace is too stressful, because that environment, and I agree, there are many, especially in high tech and in health care, of course, we learned during the pandemic, that the environment was just so stressful that no matter how much meditating a person did, they couldn’t overcome the stressful situation. So that’s the first thing I do is remind people that you need to take care of yourself, and leaders need to take care of their people. And then the next thing I do is I teach people that when we get stressed, and by the way, things happen all the time, maybe not every day. But I would say at least once a week, people are dealing with a stressed-out work environment. And when things happen, it’s normal human behavior to react. What’s not normal is with if your reaction is off the chart, and you stay angry for too long. That’s like extreme, in my opinion. And have you ever noticed someone who you’re talking to them, or you’re giving them some information or you’re responding to something they’re doing or saying, and suddenly they’re reacting, their reaction is like way out there. And you’re like, Hmm, that reaction didn’t go with the situation. That is a clue to me, that there’s some unresolved emotional baggage that they haven’t dealt with. And you know, trauma, I use the word trauma loosely, to me and you correct me if I’m wrong, trauma is either a big thing that happened a horrible thing that happened in earlier life, or ongoing, extreme emotional abuse, like an overly critical parent that a child grew up with. So, to me, trauma stays with us, everything extreme that’s happened, stays with us our entire lives, in our body, and in our mind, and things come out in in ways that show that that trauma has not been resolved. So, it’s really important. In fact, I devote one chapter in my book, to unpacking our emotional baggage and I’m sure you find that in your practice that there are things from the past that people need to work on.


Manon Bolliger  14:18

I mean, it’s things from the past can create all kinds of diseases and all kinds of things to happen that they can their triggers, right. One way or another, they surface right? So, you can’t and if you don’t really get to the core of it and do proper trauma therapy, then yeah, it’s latent. It’s just waiting to explode with the next thing. Right. So that’s the internal piece. So, when you mentioned that to accompany that possibly the leader of the company is, you know, has unresolved childhood issues which many do seems like? How does that? How does that go?


Janice Litvin  15:05

Well, I don’t I don’t enter I don’t enter a relationship with that issue. I usually when I’m when I’m talking to a leader, I’m talking about their people primarily.


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Manon Bolliger  16:25

Right, but they’re a big part of that connection. Right?


Janice Litvin  16:28

Well, they set the tone for the culture.


Manon Bolliger  16:31

Yeah, so it’s more. So, do they? How do they help the situation? Like what’s, what are the tips for the companies to overall? I mean, I know it’s individualized, you know, and I don’t mean names. That’s not appropriate. But what kind of what are the things that you find that the leaders of companies go Oh, that’s a good point. I never thought of that. All right. I could do this, like, what are the things that you have found?


Janice Litvin  17:11

Well, one of the first things is when you promote someone to management. In general, most people are promoted for some technical skill, whether it’s software, architecture, law, whatever, quite often, they’re not promoted for emotional intelligence. And many of them do not have leadership skills, do not have management skills, and do not have emotional intelligence. So, the first thing I look at is, how are the managers doing. And I recommend that they give their employees the opportunity to give feedback, you know, during a review time in a corporation, it’s usually a manager giving feedback about an employee. Employee should also be giving feedback about their manager. And in some companies that are already doing that I’m happy to see. And if a lot of employees are saying similar things about a manager, that manager goes to training, all managers should always be going to training but especially when they first get promoted, because you want to treat employees with kid gloves, like you would treat your favorite cousin or nephew or niece or, or like you would treat your children because a corporation is a family unit, we’re human beings, as I keep saying, who come to work from nine to five. In fact, in many cases, people spend more time at work than they do at home. And there is a family of sorts. And if you don’t treat people with respect, and take care of them, they’re not going to be able to give and give and give in the way that you think they should.


Manon Bolliger  18:45

Yeah, so it’s also setting the expectation, you know, from a more kind of, I guess, authoritarian way of doing things, you know, Do this, do that. And that’s your expectation if you don’t fulfill them as you go, right.


Janice Litvin  19:01

Right. Well, the command-and-control style of management is old hat, there are still people exercising that kind of leadership, but that is that those days are over in general in the way. Yeah. Should be in could be.


Manon Bolliger  19:21

So, what do you see as the like the newest trend, that is positive and then also the newest trend that is problematic?


Janice Litvin  19:35

In what regard?


Manon Bolliger  19:37

in regard to managers make creating the environment that doesn’t on that level affect the negatively affect the employees.


Janice Litvin  19:50

Okay, so I’ll tell you the story of the world’s best boss, the best boss I ever had named Frank. Frank treated me like we were best friends are brother sister, he always had my back. And this was an environment where I was dealing with clients in a software consulting situation. And I had an extremely difficult client, there was a gigantic shipping vendor from Europe. And in these days, we transmitted their data. This is before the IBM PC. And so, they would call screaming my data, my data, like, you know, the house was on fire. And he would say, and I would go into his office, it’s them again. And he taught me some very, very important lessons about how to calm them down, how to focus them on the solution, and how to think for myself and create solutions. And he did this by saying, Okay, what is your plan to help this client, and I would go, Okay, I’m gonna do step A, step B, and step C, he would say that all sounds great. Don’t forget about step D. Now step D could have been the most important part of the solution. But he made me feel like I could think for myself, and I could be independent, and become my own self. And that eventually led me to becoming my own …starting my own consulting and training firm. Right. Another thing he did for me, that was major was he saw in me, skills that I didn’t even know that I had. After a few months of working at this company, he came to me one day and said, I think you should be the trainer for our organization. And I thought, Well, it sounds interesting. I love standing up. I love talking to people tell me all about it. And it sounded interesting, the way he described it, he sent me to a training program within the company. And I loved training people about computers, and I took to it like a duck to water. And in the long run, it has really led me to where I am today as a burnout speaker, because I learned a lot of skills. And I learned that I love helping people.


Manon Bolliger  21:58

Yeah, so it’s, I mean, yeah, it’s including the person working for you as part of the solution, making them come up with it, like participating in it so that they can take satisfaction for the results and also responsibility for it. I’m not on that level. Right? Yeah. It just seems like normal human behavior, but it’s often missing.


Janice Litvin  22:27

And you know, it’s funny, when I talk about him, I talk I say, he had emotional intelligence before emotional intelligence was a thing, we all talk about now. He just had empathy. And he cared about people, and he cared about us and treat us like gold.


Manon Bolliger  22:44

Yeah. But I think, you know, they say I forget which book that you know, so many owners or the CEOs are sort of on the borderline or right-out psychopaths, you know, because they don’t have that they don’t have that empathy or that connection, you know, is that have you seen that in the any of the people even without names?


Janice Litvin  23:11

Yeah, sure, sure. I was doing a project when I do a project, whether it’s a deep dive workshop, or it’s a one hour speaking engagement, I always interview three to at least three to six people from the organization. And I ask them to assign whoever’s available. One time, I was talking to someone who was over a manufacturing shop floor. And I said to him, What are the biggest things that keep you up at night about your organization, and he said, I don’t, I don’t stay up at night, everything gets cleaned up. He said, I don’t have that, which was surprising to me, because everybody always has something. And he said, We clean everything up before the day is over. If there’s a problem, I bring them into my office, and we clean it up. And so, it felt to me and of course, it was going to attack this guy in a client organization. But it felt to me like this guy was doing the command-and-control thing. And then if there was a problem, it wasn’t his problem. It was the employee’s problem. And they were going to solve it, whatever it was. And remember, in manufacturing, there’s only so many things that could go wrong. And so, I was a little bit surprised, I got this gut feeling that this guy didn’t have a lot of empathy.


Manon Bolliger  24:29

So, and give us an example of what do you see any trends that are happening now that are affecting businesses, like which can be both, you know, the expectation of the employees or the expectation of the, you know, the CEOs or owners, what do you see that is affecting it or causing stressors?


Janice Litvin  24:55

Well, what I’m seeing now is, first of all the employees From, as you know, March of 2020, till sometime in 2022, or three, everyone worked from home and all those CEOs who said, no, no one can ever work from home, I don’t care how far away they live, they have to come to the office. All those CEOs saw that work could be done from home, and that you didn’t have to monitor their every minute and their every move, they either got their work done, or they didn’t. And the managers had to learn how to stay in touch and stay connected to their people through this box, we call zoom, which is what we’re on today, of course. And then after that, I wouldn’t say COVID is over, but when the big scare was over, and we were most of us became vaccined, or wear masks or whatever we chose to do. A lot of CEOs went back and said, You will all come back. Well, the employees are like, No, why should we come back? We can work hybrid. Now there is a very huge value of being face to face with your coworkers. But why does it have to be five days a week? Why can’t it be one or two or three days a week? Why can’t an employee schedule their time so that they can go to Billy’s soccer game from 3:30 to 5:00, and be trusted to get their work done at whatever time they see fit? Whoever invented this thing that everyone has to be at their desk at 8am or 9am. Some people are ducks, early morning people and they want to come to their desk at 10am and work till seven or whatever it is. The trust has got to be there. And so, I am seeing, in some cases, companies demanding that people come back.


Manon Bolliger  26:52

Right. Yeah, I can see that. And I guess they’re tied into possibly, rentals or whatever, in big buildings that are now empty, you know.


Janice Litvin  27:03

Well, yes. So Right. So, they’re gonna have to either cut back or Yeah, I mean, they don’t need these big buildings anymore of office space. Yeah. If anything is going to cut their expenses, they should be happy that their expenses could be cut. Yeah, they want to do an offsite, they can rent an event or meeting space for that once in a while off site when all the employees come together, they should be doing off sites. Anyway, that’s a whole nother conversation.


Manon Bolliger  27:33

And then for the workers. It’s obviously that creates stress, if you’re doing something that doesn’t make sense to you, for no reason. But you know, that’s obvious. Has it ever come up? Because you guys also have just a two-week holiday, right?


Janice Litvin  27:53

In general, yes. After so many years of service quite often, people get three weeks and eventually, four weeks. And then we have so many holidays per year. But there’s this kind of unwritten rule called Mental Health days. They have become more mainstream back in the old day, in the old back before that became more mainstream people could just say, I’m taking mental health day, or they call in sick when they needed a day off. But yes, in general, two weeks’ vacation, and then sometimes three.


Manon Bolliger  28:26

Yeah. Cuz I was comparing a little bit to in Europe, you know, where it’s like, you know, four weeks or six weeks.


Janice Litvin  28:33

Or six, yes!


Manon Bolliger  28:35

Yeah. I was wondering when because, you know, again, your brain works better with real breaks. But that’s a trust issue too. Or they could just do the work and compare the stats. But I think it’s, yeah, I know, when I talk to friends or family or whatever, there was, like, Are you guys still doing the two-week thing? You know, like how do people cope with that, knowing that this is the two little skinny weeks? And then you have to? Well, you basically cheat the system in one way or another. Right. So, it actually causes that are not straightforward behavior, right? Because you’re going to look after yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will. Sort of in a in a dichotomy of a little bit of dishonesty. Because you’re actually doing the right thing for you, but it’s the wrong thing, you know?


Janice Litvin  29:34

Well, and some, what some companies do is they have a four-day workweek, which means four 10 hour days, and then people take Friday, every other Friday or something like that, so they can have these longer weekends and have…


Manon Bolliger  29:49

Yeah, that’s a good idea.


Janice Litvin  29:50

Go out of town kind of thing.


Manon Bolliger  29:52

Yeah, have little breaks. But you know, our time has flown right by, I can’t believe it. Is there anything you’d like to share as we wrap up,


Janice Litvin  30:02

Just that, I love my work. I love talking to people meeting people, I love helping people understand how to change their reactions to stress through cognitive reframing, meaning paying it…becoming aware of their reactions, and then learning how to change them. And then one of the keys is also I teach people how to set healthy boundaries and how to say no without saying no. And so, if your organization needs a workshop, a deep dive or a one hour workshop, I’m happy to come in and do that.


Manon Bolliger  30:35

Great. Okay. Well, thank you very much for coming on and I think a lot of people in the health care who are running you know, clinics and all that, you know, might benefit from bringing this to consciousness.


Janice Litvin  30:51

Yes, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

ENDING: 41:33

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