Discarding is not final from narcissism


The burnout diagnosis is particularly widespread among IT specialists: around half of IT specialists show signs of deep exhaustion. Dr. Mirriam Prieß, doctor, author and consultant for health management, reveals how it can be possible to have a real dialogue and thus prevent burnout.

computerwoche.de: Ms. Prieß, in your book you write that the deep exhaustion that managers often feel is due to the fact that many people do not lead "their own lives". What do you mean by that?

Priess: To live your own life means to live as it corresponds to your own being. Many, however, rather live according to their formation - i.e. their upbringing - and live an idea of ​​themselves or conform to external conditions and requirements. They no longer have contact with themselves and do not know what they are really want. Those who are not in contact with themselves know neither their level nor their limits and cannot say "yes" and "no" in the right place. As a result, insoluble internal and external conflicts usually arise, in which those affected become more and more exhausted.

What would such conflicts be?

Priess: They can be professional as well as private. Many people say "yes" for too long in the wrong place, only to say "no" at some point. Or they decide on conditions with which they then quarrel. When I decide on a system and a role - i.e. a job - then I do so of my own free will and acknowledge the realities and conditions associated with it. The problem is, many don't, and end up struggling with the system and terms they agreed to. Many also exhaust themselves from not living up to their own standards, being subject to constant optimization and burning out beyond their own boundlessness.

What does that mean in practice?

Priess: If you have the feeling that you are nothing inside, you have to be everything outside. This unconscious form of deep inferiority can be found in so-called narcissistic personalities who define themselves through limitless performance and superlatives. They follow the principle "Borders are there to be crossed". This leads to the fact that the executives concerned burn themselves and their teams, because they also apply their high standards to the employees. Large companies can only compensate for this because they have such a high fluctuation: The managers change positions every three years.

Do you mean that many leaders are narcissists?

Priess: Many believe that narcissism has only to do with falling in love with yourself and misunderstand the drama behind it. The end of the parable of Narcissus makes it clear: when Narcissus tries to touch his reflection in the pond, it crumbles. This shows the deep suffering of the narcissist: In the deep conviction of being "nothing", he must avoid any contact with himself, can only look for himself outside, where he tries to save himself from his inferiority through superlatives. So it is a common trait that narcissists are colorful personalities who climb the career ladder in no time.

And then comes the exhaustion. But mDon't you realize at some point in advance that you are currently very exhausted?

Priess: Many ignore the first alarm signals and actually only pause when nothing works anymore. Only then do they go to a doctor or a clinic for treatment. However, I advise you to only take a short break that is not as long as possible but only as long as necessary lasts. Life goes on - and the longer you don't participate, the harder it is to come back. Against this background, it is important to react to the first disturbance and to seek professional support in good time. The longer you wait, the harder and longer the healing.

Managers also have a responsibility to their employees. How can a decision maker know that something is going wrong?

  1. Targeted into the disaster
    Many people steer - consciously or less consciously - purposefully towards burnout over the years. If the 13 most common mistakes are made consistently, sooner or later burnout is guaranteed!
  2. Always ready!
    At your job, "flexible" working hours and overtime are expected as a matter of course, also travel activities, changing workplaces, international cooperation across several time zones and availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week via Blackberry, cell phone & Co.
  3. Burning for the job
    You are enthusiastic about your job, you do not mind overtime. They stand for flexibility, speed and the highest quality standards. The team, the boss, the client and everyone else can always rely on you. You are ambitious, the next step to become a project manager, team or department leader beckons and demands full commitment at a consistently high level. Burn for your tasks, the project, your team, your company - until you are burned out.
  4. Relax? What's this?
    You ignore signals such as persistent tiredness, lack of concentration, loss of performance, sleep disorders and the inability to switch off and recharge your batteries. If you have any problems, make generous use of products from the pharmaceutical industry.
  5. Just don't get angry
    In any case, don't worry about your feelings. You ignore anger, anger, fears, the feeling of being overwhelmed or constantly rushed, as well as the dwindling of your joie de vivre, increasing indifference, senselessness and listlessness and depression. As the feeling of emptiness increases, you break away from the idea that work could fulfill you internally.
  6. Always be hardworking!
    You compensate for ineffectively spent working hours with extra work. This also drives away boredom on weekends and on vacation. If you are a freelancer, you can forego vacation altogether. You have to do the jobs, or the money isn't enough. Do several things at the same time if possible to save time. Say "yes" to every new task.
  7. Desperate? You don't!
    Make yourself indispensable. Even if it is impossible and you are on the verge of desperation, try to meet all the expectations of teammates, clients, internal and external project staff, superiors and your family and friends as possible. The best thing to do is to exceed their expectations.
  8. Warning signals?
    Discard all warnings, allegations, reproaches, requests and worries from your partner, relatives or colleagues. Your excuses should be watertight: "After this project everything will be better" or "just this case". Or: "The circumstances / the supervisor / the client force me to do so, I have no choice."
  9. In the hamster wheel
    Hammer yourself and others, there is no other way, at least not in your job. If you turn to professional advice at the insistence of others, you will surely understand how to prove the pointlessness of this measure.
  10. Just don't talk about it!
    Keep your distance from people with whom, surprisingly, you still have contact. As a loner, you can more easily preserve the facade. Don't tell anyone how you are. Time for lunch and coffee breaks together with colleagues is impossible, and time with the family is becoming increasingly scarce.
  11. Every minute counts - to work.
    Eliminate all hobbies including sports. If you still have a private life, make the scheduling between him and the job even closer, use every free minute.
  12. Live healthy? Massively overrated!
    Healthy eating is being abolished as a time killer in favor of fast food and sandwiches. So that you can relax at all and switch off from fears and other unpleasant feelings, treat yourself to something alcoholic regularly in the evening.
  13. Perfection, perfection, perfection
    Never be satisfied with your results, even if others are enthusiastic. You are your strictest critic. Less than perfect is out of the question for you. Set yourself additional goals. Learn a foreign language, take part-time training and run marathons.
  14. Problems? What!
    Do not fundamentally resolve conflicts and problems. Push everything in front of you so that the mountain of unfinished business gets higher and higher.
  15. An exit is possible!
    If you recognize yourself too strongly in our text, get out! The sooner the better. See a doctor, change your lifestyle while it is soon enough. Ruth Hellmich, lawyer and managing director of CoachingTraining, advise you.

Priess: There are four different phases of exhaustion: the alarm phase, the resistance phase, the exhaustion phase and the withdrawal phase. The symptoms are difficult to perceive from the outside, because those who burn out are often top performers and maintain the facade. A classic symptom is that employees are starting to bulge on, even though they can no longer actually do it. They compensate for the difficulty concentrating by staying longer - often secretly. Many people who are on their way down have to take sick leave from time to time for a day or two. Those affected are withdrawing more and more socially. If a boss feels that the employee has a problem, then he should bring it up.

How can that look in concrete terms?

Priess: He can say, for example, "I can clearly see that you are unbalanced and exhausted. I would like to ask you to seek help." It is important to agree on a period of time for this and then sit down with the employee again. If he has not sought help, you have to draw conclusions. This can go so far that the employee is withdrawn from the project. The longer you let the thing run, the greater the friction loss for everyone involved. Not only for the person concerned, but also for the team and the company. It is not uncommon for an entire team to end up exhausted by trying to compensate for the exhaustion of an individual. A supervisor can also work with the company doctor or refer to outside help. But no matter what the manager decides, this can only succeed if he is in dialogue with the employee.

Managers should be in dialogue with their employees anyway.

Priess: Yes. Should you. Unfortunately, the reality is different. Real dialogue only takes place in very few companies. A dialogue is only a dialogue if one is open to the other and meets them on an equal footing. This is also possible in a hierarchy. A board member can meet the cleaning lady on an equal footing. Many misunderstand this and monologue in mutual positioning in front of themselves. As long as you define yourself purely through your position, you will not be able to meet employees in dialogue.

As a boss, how can you find out that you are not having a real dialogue?

Priess: Many executives talk to the employees, but not With them. I advise executives to carry out a self-test and observe themselves for a week: How often do you lose eye level - and with it the dialogue - by giving out orders? Very often, different opinions immediately lead to a mutual monologue: You knock your own position off your feet instead of confronting the other. A dialogue is characterized by the fact that you leave the situation differently than you started it. Be it a different thought, a different feeling. To be in dialogue does not always mean to be of the same opinion. But you should be open to the other and their opinion

You write that fatigue often comes from saying "yes" even though one means "no". How can this be solved in everyday work?

Priess: Not only individuals but also many corporate cultures suffer from the fact that people are not able to meet at eye level with "yes" and "no". This often leads to a culture of "backwards" - then allies are sought, there is talk about one another instead of one another, or at some point the disease is taken as a way out and an unconscious attempt is made to achieve what through one's own weakness was not dared to express oneself in the dialogue beforehand. For private as well as professional health it is necessary to stand up for oneself and one's essential needs - but not to confuse these with one's own will - and against this background to be able to make healthy compromises.