Wellness Pearls

08 August 2016

Battling Burnout

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.       Socrates

I was astounded to come across Burnout Research, a journal on the psychological response to chronic job stressors.  People experiencing burnout lose the capacity to meaningfully engage in their work or make an impact, suffer a wide range of health problems.  Burnout consists of three components: emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced personal accomplishment.  There is growing alarm as this has been prevalent in healthcare, but is now leeching into other fields as well as the entrepreneurial space. This poses a major challenge for all of us.  Here are two interesting findings that can help you battle burnout:

  • Effective Boss. Authentic leaders who are positive, self-aware, have integrity and transparency are shown to protect people from burnout. If you have a boss who does not have these traits, it may be bad for you to stay.
  • Awareness of Self-Undermining Behaviors. Paradoxically, those in burnout create more job demands, as their creativity and capacity to mobilize resources and effective problem solving dissolves, at the same time, they lose support, creating a ‘loss cycle’. They become less likely to receive support; to experience job autonomy; to participate in decision-making; and to have access to information.  So, the more someone suffers from burnout, even fewer resources become available to them. It’s a nasty vortex.  The way out is to do what a client of mine did, using his strengths to job craft (re-designed his job to foster more satisfaction).  This is the opposite of learned helplessness. He asked to explore project management software to make teams work more smoothly.    The software he chose was hugely successful, becuse it brought more team harmony and cut down drastically on email volume. .

The take-home message: adopting a detached attitude towards our work is a maladaptive and risky strategy.  Burnout creates a cascade of bad effects: poor health, emotional distress, feelings of powerlessness. If you find your psychological state eroding, don’t ignore these important warning signs. Focus on building your own psychological assets.

Click to assess your own level of burnout:


Leave a Reply