How to Manage Employee Burnout and Unhappy Employees

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8 Minute Read
Posted by Lori Culler
Employee Burnout

Learn actionable tips to manage employee burnout and unhappy employees from agriculture recruiting experts.

For many in the agriculture business, hard work is valued above all else. While rural work ethic is something many of us pride ourselves on (and is even a way of life and part of who we are), it’s important to make sure employees don’t burn out.

A strong work ethic combined with seasonal changes, tight labor markets, and time-sensitive tasks to be done, it may not seem realistic to take it easy or think about something like burnout. However, it’s important to encourage work-life balance and avoid burn out so you can bring in the best employees, reduce strain on current employees, and increase retention.

In this expert guide, we’ll discuss actionable tips to manage employee burnout and unhappy employees

The Human Cost of Employee Burnout

Most workplaces want a high level of productivity. After all, labor is a high cost and you want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. However, it’s a big mistake to obsess over productivity to the point where you are neglecting the people who are working hard for your business.

A focus on productivity without considering the toll it takes on employees results in the very real human cost of employee burnout.

Employee burnout results in being emotionally, mentally, and physically drained and exhausted. It can be exacerbated by a lack of resources, support, and understanding. In a field like agriculture where hard work takes a major toll on the body, this is a very real problem.

How do you know if your employees are suffering from burnout?

Employees may:

  • Appear worried, stressed, or demoralized
  • Take frequent absences
  • Get sick often
  • Withdraw or disengage
  • Be in pain
  • Quit or leave the business suddenly

Employee burnout doesn’t happen overnight. If it has gotten to the point where employees are quitting hastily, it has gone much too far.

The impact of employee burnout doesn’t just affect the individual (which is problematic all on it’s own), but also your customers and your business.

When employees are unhappy, your business suffers. Unhappy employees convey that, even unintentionally when working with other team members or your customers. Negativity and being unsatisfied in the workplace is a contagious phenomenon. This can spread to customers, who can be turned off by poor customer service and the demoralizing atmosphere of overworked and burned out employees.

If employees are dropping off like flies or calling off more than usual, you won’t have the manpower to meet your demand. For agribusinesses, this is particularly problematic. An active farm has many moving parts, from taking care of animals to harvesting crops, and not having enough labor can absolutely kill your margins and waste product.

Employee burnout can affect every area of your business. It’s a very serious condition that isn’t just about needing a break. It can result in very serious consequences.

Need more convincing? Here are some important stats on employee satisfaction, burnout, and productivity.

These statistics show that workplace culture is connected to employee satisfaction and burnout, and that burnout is a major revenue and productivity killer!

Combating Employee Burnout

To combat employee burnout, you have to put your people first. People are your greatest asset and your highest liability. They aren’t only essential to the success of your business, they are individuals who deserve to be respected and treated well.

It’s important to have key performance indicators for performance and work output. We aren’t saying to let productivity slide. However, it is important to have realistic expectations and goals that consider the happiness and safety of your employees.


Productivity goals mean nothing if your employees are getting burnt out as a result.


Job satisfaction and happiness are some of the top variables associated with increased productivity. When you have a workplace that cares about mental and physical health, and employees that feel valued, you’ll get consistent, high quality work.

A happy workplace is a productive workplace. You must prioritize the needs of your employees. To combat employee burnout you must make sure your people feel:

  • Supported
  • Valued
  • Validated
  • Heard
  • Treated fairly

To reduce employee burnout and unhappy employees, there are a few things you can do. It’s important to really evaluate your work environment, set clear and realistic expectations, train your employees properly, and implement best practices to increase productivity while maintaining employee morale and well-being.

Take a Hard Look at your Work Environment

To promote happy employees who don’t become burnt out, it’s important to really take a look at the work environment you cultivate and the processes you keep to run your business. Doing so honestly and reflectively can help determine if there is a problem.


This can be difficult for a number of reasons. First, it’s very common to believe your business or farm is a great place to work. After all, you love agriculture, so it’s easy to fall into a trap of not seeing things clearly.

To combat this, you can evaluate your work environment in several ways.

  • Research all the reasons why productivity dips in the workplace, including your own style of management.
  • Ask your employees for their feedback. You can conduct one-on-one interviews, larger team meets, and small focus groups.
  • Incorporate feedback through a variety of sources to make sure you are getting the full picture.
  • Evaluate this feedback. Consider commonalities. If there is something that a great deal of employees mention, consider making changes.

Curate a Company Culture that is Conducive to Productivity and Workplace Satisfaction

Company culture is very important to job satisfaction. A company culture that reflects your core values and benefits you and your employees. This creates a more cohesive and cooperative environment, as well as increased efficiency and productivity.


A negative workplace culture leads to disengagement among staff, high turnover rates, reduced productivity, and negative employee and customer experiences.

Set clear and realistic expectations

One of the fastest and surefire ways to make an employee unhappy is to have standards they can’t possibly reach. It’s important to make sure your expectations are achievable, realistic, and communicated clearly.

To do this, you should:

  • Consider best practices in ag recruiting and retention so you can implement them in your own business.
  • Create key performance indicators for each role. They should be tied to business strategy and goals, measurable, and specific.
  • Identify current baseline performance and standards of productivity
  • Monitor and measure your key performance indicators on a regular basis.

If 100% employees meet their KPIs 100% of the time they are probably not challenging and your expectations might be too low. If fewer than half of your employees achieve them, your expectations are probably too high.

Make Sure you Train your Employees Properly

To run your farm or agribusiness efficiently, make sure you train your employees properly. Not only will this increase safety and productivity, it will also make sure your employees have everything they need to succeed.

Make sure you have a trainer that will be effective in teaching your employees. Hire the best with agribusiness executive recruiting so you can have an expert training your employees to increase productivity and reduce employee burnout.

Be realistic about how employees will perform, especially when they are new to the role or the business. This applies to both new hires and people who transfer over from another role. You have to make sure you have realistic expectations for the training process.

Check in with your employees regularly, both on the first day and during a specific period, such as 90 to 120 days. This time period should consist of instruction and learning so employees can build their confidence for their new role.

If you’re training your employees properly and employees still don’t perform well, consider that you may have a poor work process. If processes are flawed, training won’t help. It’s incredibly important to make sure you have proven processes and procedures, as well as measures to evaluate them, so you can train your employees accordingly.

Balance Productivity and Employee Well-Being with These Strategies

There are a ton of ways to make sure you balance what you need to get done with employee wellbeing.

  • Communicate with your employees about productivity and performance regularly, not just when there is a problem or during a formal review.
  • Let your employees know you value their input and you hear their concerns (make sure you do this and aren’t just saying it!)
  • Explain the processes and channels for giving feedback or concerns related to productivity and performance. Employees should have an option to speak with someone they are comfortable with if they don’t want to speak to their direct manager. Document the process in the employee handbook.
  • Implement a wellness program or employee assistance program.
  • Encourage work life balance with flexible scheduling if possible. If you can, provide periodic wellness days so employees can recharge and attend to any personal needs that must be taken care of.
  • Consider technological upgrades to make tasks more efficient.
  • Be open to feedback and if it makes sense and can be done, be flexible enough to change your approach. Don’t let ego get in the way of improving processes.
  • Give positive feedback! Don’t just talk to your employees when there is a problem. In fact, studies show that recognition is one of the most important motivators for employees. Give compliments, acknowledge hard work, and reward productivity to help your employees have high job satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

While certain times of the year can be more stressful in agriculture, there are ways to manage employee burnout and keep your employees happy. It’s important to make sure you treat your employees right and take steps to adequately prevent burnout. Not only does this create happy employees, it increases productivity and reduces turnover.

Do you need a hand with your agriculture recruitment or agriculture executive search? AgHires is an agriculture recruitment firm that helps to recruit and advertise for jobs in horticulture, agriculture, food production, and more! Work with experts who understand agribusiness so you can hire (and retrain) the best employees for your business!

Learn actionable tips to manage employee burnout and unhappy employees from agriculture recruiting experts.
Lori Culler

Lori Culler

Lori Culler (Lennard), founder and owner of AgHires, grew up in and around the Agricultural Industry on her family's 3rd generation potato, tomato, and grain operation in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana.