I've known Ben Fanning for many years both as a colleague and as a customer. Ben is a highly successful supply chain professional who has recently turned his business experience in the industry, along with personal growth expertise, into a coaching practice focused on career burn out and strategies for redirecting ones quality of life on both a personal and professional level. Sadly, a burgeoning market. I invited Ben to post an article here at Freightdawg.com to reflect the signs of the times.
Ben's anecdotes below on the pressure of Black Friday in the retail market in the United States says it all.
Benfanning.com is where you will find the Burnout Specialist!
The Disturbing Truth about Your Logistics Career (and what you can do about it)
It was my first holiday season in Logistics working at a global retailer, and I quickly learned to hate the Holidays.
I’d been through the wringer fighting for ocean and aircraft space for shipments, and I’d been getting beat-up weekly to “do something special” to get everything into the stores for Black Friday.
It was ugly.
As we rounded the corner of Black Friday, I spent late nights at the office glued to my desk chair in a stressful reaction mode.
I quickly discovered that this was just the first of many “fire drills” I’d be experiencing in my career in supply chain.
Since then I’ve worked over a decade on both sides of logistics desk as the carrier as well as customer, and I’ve always found the same stress levels no matter where I sat.
It’s easy to see why people at the office called Logistics, “the meat grinder”.
You may make it out alive, but it’s not going to be pretty
Working in Logistics Burns You Out
When I went through job burnout, I experienced a variety of feelings that made work in logistics extremely stressful.
You can quickly tell from my own personal story why so many people don’t make it in Logistics and why the job burnout rate is extremely high.
If you’ve been in it awhile yourself, you’ll identify with these signs of Logistics burnout:
- Insomnia –Logistics is a 24/7 job and includes every time zone. There just don’t seem to be clear boundaries on working and non-working hours anymore . The red light keeps flashing on your blackberry throughout the night. I can remember having call with a colleague in China after 10 PM on a periodic basis. After getting off the call it was always difficult to get to sleep because I was hyped up from the call. This makes it tough to get a peaceful nights rest.
- Stress (from taking responsibility for the uncontrollable) – One of the most interesting things about Logistics is that you get to work with people throughout the supply chain. However this is actually one of the areas that creates the most stress. Logistics is frequently at the end of the chain and is the place where you’ve got to make up time, and your under the gun to “pull something off”.
- Exhaustion – When you’re in logistics, you often are the go-to person Q&A person for everyone in the company and your customers. Your office phone, blackberry, and even person cell phone are ringing at all hours with questions and concerns. At first it feels nice to be needed but over the long haul it’s exhausting. It’s even gets difficult to get through a lunch or dinner conversation without getting interrupted.
- Frustration – Logistics organizations are most frequently run on tribal knowledge (no matter how many SOP’s are in place). There’s no book that’s going to guide you tell you what to do. This makes learning, training, and sharing knowledge extremely frustrating, painful, and time consuming.
- Paranoia – You may be thinking that logistics is about getting goods from point A to point B, but let’s get real here. Logistics is really about reducing cost. When you’re on the cost reducing side of the house, you could be eliminated at any time for a cost reduction. This leads to lots of paranoia of layoffs, team infighting and turf wars, which is exhausting.
- Unfocused – When you’re in logistics you’re frequently do everything from chasing freight, receipt planning, and lots and lots of analysis. Variety in a job is nice, but logistics it takes it to an entirely new level.
Sounding stressful yet?
The good news is that even if you identify with all seven signs of burnout above, not all is lost.
How to Cope with Stress in Logistics
So why anyone would get into Logistics in the first place?
Well, it’s actually an extremely interesting area that’s varied, growing in importance and influence, and allows a lot of flexibility on where you live.
It’s a job that has a global impact and allows access to the international marketplace early on in your career.
When I’ve talked to veteran logistics leaders and asked them why they stayed in logistics they’re extremely passionate and wouldn’t consider doing anything else.
So how can you have a career in logistics and cope with stress and burnout?
How can you have the best of both worlds?
Here are five strategies to start:
1. Get Clear on Why You’re in Logistics – Logistics is not something you want to be in long term unless you have a real passion for it. If you get in and realize the intensity is not for you then start planning your exit strategy right away. You’ll find that if you don’t enjoy out of the gates, your affinity is not going to grow over the long haul.
2. Make Your Week Work…for You – Working around the clock one of the biggest issues for logistics professionals. It’s easy to get scattered with so many issues flying around (especially during peak season). Try blocking your day into minimum 1-2 hour chunks so you can really focus your time and energy. You’ll feel more productive and experience greater satisfaction at the end of the work day.
3. Educate your Company Sales People – Educate the sales force on delivery windows. Ask them to come directly to you when their customer has a difficult demand. Try setting a periodic call with the sales team to open the lines of communication. In one of my previous roles, we hosted morning meetings that included free donuts and coffee to make sure all key sales people attended. Do this and they’ll feel more prepared to meet with the external customer, and you’ll be under less pressure to meet unrealistic delivery requirements.
4. Empower Others – The business logistics can be full of tedious task like shipment tracking, document corrections, and continuous ETA calculations and recalculations. You can blow your entire day helping others doing the tedious tasks. If someone needs a package tracked or a special shipment watched, then give them website access or point them to customer service. Teach them to fish, instead of doing it for them and your day will be a lot more focused and less cluttered.
5. Tame Technology – There’s little more stressful than doing manual reports on a weekly basis. Selectively collaborate with co-workers and suppliers that know how to leverage technology. They will help you get bigger results in a more manageable way.
Your logistics career doesn’t have to end in burnout!
Select one of the 5 strategies above and write it on Post-it note beside your computer as a reminder.
See how your day as a logistics leader changes for the better.
Ben Fanning is The Burnout Specialist who helps burned out professionals reignite their own career and rediscover their passion for work.
Download his free Burnout Manifesto, 7 easy ways to Reignite Your Career from Burnout (without quitting) by clicking here.