It was a sad time for Liverpool FC and its fans last week as Jürgen Klopp, one of the club’s most successful and loved managers of all time, announced he had made the difficult decision to stand down from his role at the end of the 2023/2024 season.
Whilst Klopp didn’t explicitly give an exact reason why he stepped down from the role, there are several indicators and hints in his announcement video that he is responding to feelings of burnout, and has made the decision in order to protect his physical and mental health.
Chief among them was his admittance that he was "running out of energy"
The move may have come as a huge shock to football fans across the country, however, there may be some positive learnings to take from Klopp’s decision.
It’s estimated that 7 million people in the UK have experienced burnout in their work. Although Klopp is in a somewhat privileged position in order to take a break from his day job comfortably, there are some learnings that we can take from this brave decision, experts explain.
David Rice, HR expert at People Managing People, says: “Jürgen Klopp is viewed as one of the best managers Liverpool FC has ever had, so this will come as a huge shock for many people. As well as winning trophies, he built an incredible culture, and turned doubters into believers.
“He spent time cultivating not only his own relationship with the fans, but the players’ as well. He wasn’t just a manager, he was an incredibly inspirational leader.
“Whilst the news has come as a huge shock, there are however there are some key learnings we can take from his decision to step down, especially when it comes to the workplace. Acknowledging you are burnt out is a very difficult and brave thing to do, but it is vital in order to protect your health. People should look at this decision as an inspiring one, and take action if they are feeling burnt out.”
Here, Rice shares four key learnings we can take from Klopp’s decision to quit as the Liverpool boss:
Acknowledging burnout is vital
“It takes courage to acknowledge your burnout, but it’s so important," says Rice.
"When we’re feeling overwhelmed, our self-care is often the first thing to go. Burnout can jeopardise your physical and mental well-being, and if action isn’t taken, it increases the risk of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drug or alcohol abuse.
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“It’s important to note that burnout isn’t just feeling a bit tired after a busy day at work. It’s a state of total mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. It can make it difficult to engage in activities you usually find meaningful and enjoyable outside of work, or you can lose your passion for these as you experience an increasing sense of hopelessness."
Rice goes on: “In this instance, Jürgen suggests that he is feeling tired and as though he can’t possibly continue at the same momentum that he has been to date. This is a brave step to take, but a massively important one when it comes to protecting his general health, which is always the most important thing.”
Taking some time out can be a good thing
It’s not always possible, but if you are experiencing severe burnout, often a complete break is what you need, Rice insists.
He states: “It is impossible to reflect on what is most important to you, when you have tunnel vision and are so tied up in the day-to-day. It doesn’t need to be a significant chunk of time off as it is in this example, but it can start with simply taking a few days off to gather your thoughts and clarify your thoughts.
“If you feel comfortable doing so, speak with your HR team to express how you’re really feeling, and that you’re genuinely concerned about your health. If they don’t accept that this is an absolute priority, then perhaps they aren’t the right employer for you.”
Sometimes quitting whilst you’re at your peak is a great move
“For those who don’t know, Liverpool are at the top of the Premier League and could be on track to win the ‘domestic treble’ (three trophies for major tournaments) this season. This would be single-handedly the biggest achievement Jürgen Klopp could ever complete at Liverpool FC. Perhaps his decision to leave has been in line with this, stepping down whilst he is at his ‘peak’.
“Sometimes, this can be a good thing when it comes to our work. We are only human, and continuing at the same momentum and setting incredibly high expectations for ourselves time and time again, is eventually going to make us ill.
“Often, quitting whilst you’re on an absolute high is a great move and puts you in the best position to think clearly about your next career move.”
It’s important to assess your circumstances
Concluding, Rice says: “Burnout is the result of circumstantial stressors that exceed our ability to cope. Therefore, a key way to prevent it is to take a step back and assess what factors in your life may be putting you at risk, as Jürgen Klopp has done.
“Once you've identified these risk factors, you can begin to put systems in place that will help you to better manage them. For example, it’s important to ask yourself; are you taking on too much responsibility? Do you have a good work/life balance? Do you feel like your work is fulfilling? It’s clear that Jürgen’s answer to some or all of these was, sadly, no. But we must take inspiration from his decision to act upon this, in an incredibly humble way.”