Overwhelmed Employees – how to motivate!

overwhelmed employees


Overwhelmed employees is a term we have unfortunately become all too familiar with in business today. Why do you suppose that is?

Today, I want to address overwhelm. I want to share some leadership tips that might help you motivate an employee who feels overwhelmed. Or to motivate an employee who feels buried in tasks and unable to manage their daily responsibilities with joy and fulfillment.

Alarming statistics regarding overwhelmed employees

Researchers found that in 2023, approximately 1 in 3 employees felt overwhelmed and frustrated at work. It’s not a wonder that new studies are showing our mental health and well-being at work continues to decline. As a business owner, wife, and mom, I understand how it feels to be drowning in tasks like you’re burning the candle at both ends.

Employees deserve to feel accomplished and satisfied

Look up “how to combat overwhelm” online. You will find many valuable tips for helping overwhelmed employees, like flexible work arrangements, training & support, and breaks or time off. While these are helpful, I want to look at this differently.

If you read my last blog on some causes of employee disengagement, you’ll recall that I believe leaders have the most influence on how an employee feels in their daily role.

a lady holding her head showing overwhelmBy the end of this blog, I will share some tangible & practical steps you can take to help support your employees. I will also provide a link to our hot off-the-press Employee Engagement Toolkit – a step-by-step leadership guide to improve your employees’ experience at work.


Clarity – Leadership Tip #1

My first leadership tip is to eliminate confusion from your leadership team around what’s most important. Leadership is like a waterfall. Whatever happens at the top will cascade down throughout the organization with increasing energy. If your leaders aren’t clear on what’s most important, your employees will run non-stop, unsure how to make trade-offs.

If everything matters, then nothing does. Too many priorities lead to mediocrity, silos, sense of confusion, and struggle. As leaders, you create an environment where your people work against each other. Clarity allows overwhelmed employees to prioritize tasks. Clarity also allows employees to identify critical responsibilities and set realistic goals. This more precise roadmap will make their workload seem more achievable.

I worked with a client who had a fabulous culture. The team members drank the Kool-Aid and loved representing the brand and serving their members. However, they needed to identify their most crucial leadership priority. This would eliminate being caught up in following shiny objects and having too many projects and events running at the same time. Although there was lots of excitement, employees felt pulled in too many directions. After we helped them identify their thematic goal or rally cry, they were able to use this as a filter to make decisions. They recognized they needed to spread their resources and selected only the projects that moved them toward their goal instead.


Communicate – Leadership Tip #2

My next leadership tip is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Once your leadership team has made the critical decisions around what’s most important, you must tell your employees clearly, repeatedly and enthusiastically.

Research shows that people need to hear things 5-7 times before they take action. Repetition is our friend. However, as leaders (myself included), we often shy away from it. We assume people hear and understand everything we say. Let’s all wear our CRO hats and become chief reminding officers. Your employees have a lot on their plate and daily noise. Your job is to tell them daily what is most important so they can sort and filter their responsibilities.

Back to my previous client story. The client recognized that identifying a rally cry was only helpful if their people heard the message loudly, clearly, and frequently. They intentionally kept the messages simple, clear, and uncomplicated. Leaders also communicated with them across multiple mediums. The messages were communicated in person at their town hall, in team meetings, across team slack messages, and even posted on bathroom stalls. It took some time, but eventually, team members started to recognize which projects were more important. They knew when to say no to requests and could better wrap up work days feeling accomplished and satisfied.


Engage – Leadership Tip #3

My final leadership tip to combat employee overwhelm is to engage with your employees. A leader must uncover what’s going on for them and ask for feedback on what they need and how they can help. I love the analogy that we have two ears and one mouth; this is an excellent opportunity for leaders to listen twice as much as they talk.

I was listening to a podcast this morning by Patrick Lencioni and the Table Group, and they shared a great idea of an activity you could run in your next team meeting.

In the work context, invite each team member to share one thing they want more of and one thing they want less of. What an excellent opportunity to spark honest, practical, and vulnerable conversations. Discover what roles people want to lean into and where they feel they have much to contribute. Learn what type of work brings them joy. These are likely not the tasks causing them stress. It also helps identify areas where they need help, support or clarity. Someone else on the team may be better suited to handle that task. I’m sure they will love passing off those responsibilities, the ones causing them the greatest frustration.

Create a platform for individuals to share their needs and follow through with solutions.  This process can go a long way to decreasing overwhelmed employees and increasing engagement.

In conclusion:

I’d love to hear where you see an opportunity to motivate and inspire your employees. Please share your takeaways and next steps in the comments!

This is an excellent time of year to check in as a leadership team. Are you confident you are aligned on what is most important, and are you communicating this consistently and regularly to everyone on your team?

Wear your Chief Reminding Officer hat (see how I just reminded you of that) and help your employees align and prioritize their daily workload. Give them the filters to make significant decisions and the permission to focus on the areas where they will have the most impact.

Unsure about how to maximize leadership impact on employee satisfaction?


Download the Guide to Employee Engagement

a Step-by-Step Guide to Increase Engagement without Overburdening Leaders

It includes a simple leadership exercise to quickly improve the work experience of each employee on your team.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss upcoming videos on the impacts of employee disengagement.

Finally, please connect if you’d like to discuss how we can help your leadership team create clarity and alignment in 2024.

As your trusted leadership development consultant, NexLevel helps executive leadership teams remove invisible barriers to achieve their most critical strategic goals.

We focus on three essential outcomes required to achieve sustainable business success:

  • Healthy Workplace
  • Team Performance
  • Measured Success

You can Create a Healthier, more
Successful Organization.

And you don’t have to do it alone.