How image management contributes to end-of-year burnout


As the name suggests, end of year burnout is when you encounter emotional and physical exhaustion and energy depletion, generally associated with the end of year and holiday season busyness. This time of year is often stressful for individuals, so when you accompany the usual Christmas festivities with added work deadlines, pressures, and expectations…for some people this can seem quite overwhelming. However, one of the biggest culprits behind these feelings of overwhelm is ‘image management

ent.’ Image management refers to the time and energy we waste at work trying to overcompensate for our perceived weaknesses or inadequacies. More critically, image management creates values breaches, where we stop acting out of integrity and start to behave inauthentically. This is when people fail to speak up, admit mistakes, and are too afraid to let others know that they’ve reached the limit of their capacity, out of fear that they’ll be judged as incompetent. 

Image management is like a second job for most people in typical organisations. One research study we performed involving more than 5,000 people from various global organisations, indicated that image management may suck up about 40 per cent of people’s time and energy on average. This is a staggering waste of these precious resources, costing billions of dollars.

With only three weeks left until the holiday break, here are my top five strategies that both managers and employees can introduce to ensure they feel comfortable expressing themselves and overcoming the end of year overwhelm.  

Develop real self-awareness by cultivating vertical growth

According to our research, only 1% of the population truly knows how to practice self-awareness. True self-awareness involves ‘vertical growth’: a downward seeing and upward growth. We see downward (vertically) into our unconscious patterns of thought and behaviour and learn to deal with them with awareness, patience, and compassion. The more we do this, the more we increase our ability to grow upward in the direction of our values, aspirations, and ideals. 

Cultivating a vertical growth mindset will assist you to let go of any self-defeating patterns that are holding you back, like procrastination or fear of speaking up. Only through self-acceptance and self-awareness, can we start to address these weaknesses and work on a healthier approach to our work. 

Practice radical candour with your co-workers

Radical candour is essentially ‘telling it how it is’, by being open with your bosses and co-workers about your stressors and concerns. By calmly explaining to your boss that you’re feeling overworked, they can help find solutions such as delegating tasks to people with more capacity, or provide reasonable extended deadlines for work tasks. For managers, you need to create an atmosphere of psychological safety in the workplace that is open and allows people to express discomfort, without fearing that they will be judged. 

Set healthy boundaries

With deadlines and targets to meet before the end of year, you need to set realistic expectations for what can be achieved in this timeframe so that you don’t overwork yourself and your employees. For individuals, setting boundaries could mean not working as late as you normally would at other points in the year, and being firm if you feel the expectations put on you are unreasonable.  

Prioritise rest

Rest is so important for managers and employees alike. Yes, the holidays are a few weeks away, but you can’t keep pushing 110% until that point. Be sure to continue your usual health and sleep patterns, find time for small breaks in the office and don’t overload your weekends.

Make your values a daily habit 

Values are defined essentially by what is most important to you…and in this instance, I’m not talking about ‘family,’ ‘friends’ or ‘work.’ Values to me are the core beliefs and patterns of behaviour that define you and how you operate as an employee. So, this could be ‘integrity,’ ‘honesty’ or ‘punctuality.’ Make sure that even as you get busier or have numerous projects to finish, that your values remain a daily habit and aren’t thrown out the window at the first sign of stress.  

Some questions you could ask yourself to see if you’re living out you values as daily habits include: 

How did your values shape your behaviour over the end of year period?At any point, did you reflect on your values and use them to modify your behaviour? 

The end of year is a particularly stressful time for many managers and employees alike. However, by adopting these simple strategies, you will be able to cultivate an attitude of growth and have wider capacity for the things that truly matter this holiday season. 


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