For CISOs who want to keep their employees healthy, whole, and resilient, these are trying times. However, they also provide an opportunity for leaders and managers to seize the moment and act as a sustaining force for their teams they lead.
Burnout has been a problem in many workplaces for several years, to the point where the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 classified it as an official “syndrome” that is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The COVID crisis struck shortly after the WHO’s designation, accelerating the burnout syndrome.
In many cases, CISOs can help their employees beat burnout. To do so, the CISO must first comprehend the elements of burnout and the causes that contribute to it, as well as be willing and able to address these problems before burnout occurs.
The Root Causes of Burnout
To prevent burnout in the workforce, CISOs should focus on identifying and resolving the root causes that typically lead to burnout.
Workweeks that frequently surpass 60 hours, constant deadline time pressure, and persistent demands of working after hours are some of the main causes. The majority of these factors are widespread among information security professionals.
Furthermore, there are two factors related to a company’s day-to-day working environment that can contribute to burnout. One is role ambiguity, which happens when team members are unsure about their responsibilities. Another source of burnout is perceived unfairness in manager-employee relationships, which can include favouritism, failure to recognize contributions, and unreasonable job demands.
Coping with these difficult situations frequently necessitates a large amount of emotional resources, which can deplete a team member’s energy. CISOs who make good faith attempts to prevent both problems in their day-to-day operations are likely to see significant improvements in employee engagement and resilience.
Solutions and Indicators
Of course, detecting and treating burnout factors in advance isn’t always successful. As a result, CISOs should be on the lookout for common indications of burnout in their team members. CISOs can deal with them in a variety of ways. One option is to look into potential workload difficulties. Even the most tenacious team members can burn out if the workload and pressure is excessive. If a team member is showing signs of burnout, an assessment can done whether certain work should be distributed among other members of team, if practicable. When taking this approach, the CISO should make sure that team members understand that this is being done to gain more scale, not as a punishment.
If the burnout symptoms indicate to a particularly stressful InfoSec assignment, such as protecting assets from quickly evolving threats, a discussion about providing greater assistance to the employee may help them feel less alone in a difficult circumstance.
A strategic operations assessment can also be considered by the CISO. This effort may demonstrate that, while the team is producing more output with increased workload, the chance of burnout and attrition is also rising, as is the risk of costly mistakes. Is the return on investment worth the risk? Hiring extra resources or outsourcing some tasks may end up being less expensive in the long run than the expenses of turnover and costs.
An operations analysis like this might also help the CISO figure out where workloads could be reduced. It may demonstrate that some time-consuming tasks are at least partially unneeded in some circumstances.
Measures of Resilience
Another method for a CISO to be a sustaining leader is to take proactive actions to help team members build resilience so that they are less prone to become burned out and drained.
Giving team members some decision-making authority, for example, gives them a sense of autonomy and strength, which helps them avoid feeling helplessness, which can lead to exhaustion.
Giving timely and specific coaching feedback allows team members to make adjustments and ensures that they are on the right track. CISOs can maintain track of their employees’ well-being by checking in with them on a regular basis to see how they’re doing in terms of their own energy levels and internal resources.
Finally, taking a partnership approach to working with team members rather than a parenting approach is a great way for a CISO to help employees in developing resilience. Management in the parenting style assumes that the leaders have knowledge that the team members will never have. This creates a sense of helplessness and lack of agency in the employee, which can deplete internal resources.
A partnering model, such as one in which the CISO solicits solutions, ideas, and perspectives from their employees, on the other hand, cultivates team members’ decision-making and problem-solving skills, which strengthens their resilience.
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