Today, brands’ front doors are their social media profiles—and you, the social media managers, are the gatekeepers. That is not an easy job.

Building an impactful, holistic social presence takes time, research, creativity and constant innovation. On top of that, you’re inundated with unexpected crises, emotionally charged consumer messages and constant change in social media trends. And you can’t just sign off or take a social media detox when the work becomes overwhelming. This constant balancing act can lead to social media managers reaching their breaking point.

According to Sprout Social data, 40% of social pros say they experienced burnout recently.

Sprout Social data visualization showing how recently social media practitioners experienced burnout.

What I am here to tell you is that battling social media burnout does not mean you are incapable of doing your job. It does mean you need to ask for help and learn how to tell your boss you’re overwhelmed. In this article, we’ll explore ways to have effective conversations about burnout with your boss, and we’ll provide specific prompts to help you get started.

Gif showing a text conversation between two people, one of which expresses being busy at work and not knowing how to tell their boss

How to discuss burnout with your boss: Don’t suffer in silence

Your boss likely has lots of things competing for their attention, so they may not be aware that you’re struggling unless you speak up. And while it may be intimidating to start the conversation, a lot of good can come from leveling with your supervisor and being honest about the challenges you face in your role.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, talking to your boss about burnout will help you challenge assumptions about your role and responsibilities and bring any invisible expectations to light.

For instance, are you overscheduling yourself? Why do you feel the need to work to the point of burnout? Does your boss know that you’re working late every night? Do they actually expect you to be able to respond to messages immediately or is that an expectation you put on yourself? Uncover those answers so you can recalibrate if needed.

Most, if not all, managers have been through a period of burnout themselves. In that case, they’ll have empathy for your situation as well as advice to get you back on track.

Only 29% of social media marketers say they are most comfortable talking about burnout with a direct manager.

Sprout Social data visualization showing that only 29% of social media marketers feel comfortable talking with their direct manager about burnout.

Having a vulnerable conversation is an opportunity to set new norms with your manager, like being transparent about your state of mind, feeling comfortable expressing blockers or even saying no when you don’t have the bandwidth.

Get the ball rolling

When you address burnout with your manager, you’ll need to get specific and provide context to help them understand what spurred on what you’re feeling. Here are a couple questions that can help you get to the root of the problem:

  • What are your top priorities right now?
  • What is holding you back from focusing on big picture projects?
  • What is the most mentally draining aspect of your job?
  • What tools or resources do you need to do your job more effectively?
  • How do existing processes or management styles contribute to burnout?
  • Is personal stress carrying over to work?
Sprout Social graphic featuring six questions to help identify the root of burnout.

With an understanding of what challenge(s) you’re trying to solve, you can start the conversation with your boss more effectively. And prioritization will help you more easily juggle your tasks in the long run. 

Text conversation gif showing an employee asking to talk to their boss about burnout

When you’re ready to talk, it’s best to do it in person or via video call whenever possible, but getting it on your boss’s radar can start in writing with an email or Slack. Here are a few ways you can kick it off:

  • I’ve been overwhelmed by the volume of messages I’ve been managing lately. Do you have time to chat about it this week?
  • A lot of our recent projects have been really urgent. In our next one-on-one meeting, could we talk through top priorities?
  • I’ve been putting out a lot of fires on social lately and it’s becoming unsustainable. Do you have time this week to chat about how we can get ahead of crises?
Sprout Social's graphic with three prompts to start the conversation with management about burnout.

How to tell your boss you’re overwhelmed: Propose solutions and demonstrate your value

Approach your conversation with some solutions in mind. Think about what “better” will look like for you. Maybe that’s more time to focus on big picture projects, minimizing working after hours, new resources to manage your workload or more open communication between you and your manager.

You’re not going to fix burnout in a single conversation, so start with a realistic and specific goal for your meeting. It will vary for each individual but here are a few suggestions:

  • Align on priorities and expectations
  • Implement a new or different process
  • Determine where you need more support and identify teammates or external resources, like a temp or contractor
  • Develop or reorganize timelines
  • Communicate roadblocks
Sprout Social graphic with example goals for meeting with management about burnout

Remember, the focus of your conversation should be on the impact your burnout has on not only you, but your team and business. You want to have a productive conversation, not a vent session. This is more likely to happen when you can show how burnout directly impacts your productivity, focus at work, the rest of your team and overall marketing goals.

For example, you might say, “I’ve been unable to contribute to the business from a strategy perspective because I’ve been focused on execution and responding to inbound messages. If I had more time to hone in on our social data, I could bring really beneficial insights to the rest of the organization.” Showcasing how much more impact you could have on top line goals will inevitably pique your boss’s interest and make them invested in your recovery from burnout.

While you should have an idea of what might fix the problems at hand, the onus is not solely on you. Your supervisor can and should help solidify the proposed solutions. At the end of your conversation, reiterate your plan of action to your manager and clarify any remaining confusion or concerns.

Gif showing a text conversation of an employee setting priorities with their boss.

Follow through and follow up

Once you learn how to discuss burnout with your boss and enact your agreed-upon plan, be patient with yourself. Immediate relief is not guaranteed. When you feel like you’ve had enough time to make an assessment of how things are going, set aside time to reflect. What’s changed since you spoke with your boss? What is working? What is not?

If you’re still struggling after some time has passed and the solutions you came up with aren’t providing relief, don’t get down on yourself, clam up or accept defeat. You’ve already taken that first step—make it a point to follow up with your manager, continue the conversation and build off what was discussed initially. Together, you can decide how to tweak your original plan of action if it hasn’t been effective.

Lastly, follow up even if things are working! Your boss will want to know that you’re feeling more productive, supported and revitalized.

Gif showing a text conversation of an employee following up after meeting with their boss about burnout.

Get the support you deserve

Burnout is very real and pervasive in the social media marketing community. Restoring balance in your work life might feel like a big to-do when you’re burnt out, but you don’t need to go it alone. Communicating your struggles to your boss is brave, bold and the best way to get back on track.

@henrisomad

#ad Don’t suffer in silence. Check out @betterhelp today. #betterhelppartner

♬ original sound – Henri Somadjagbi

If you’re having these conversations and things aren’t getting better, your boss isn’t as receptive as you’d hoped, you don’t feel psychologically safe at work or you’re in need of more mental health support, here are a few resources that may help:

If managing multiple social media accounts is contributing to your burnout, we think Sprout can help. Sprout can help alleviate some stress by streamlining your processes and improving efficiency so you can empower your social teams.

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