How to Prevent Job Burnout

The Basics of Job Burnout

Working hard is part of modern life. Everyone is expected to do their part (and a lot more) if they want to get ahead or beat others for the same position. At one point in history, it was possible to have a nice job, put in the hours, and then come home and relax. Now work follows you everywhere whether it is the bathroom, home, bed, vacation and anywhere else you are going. With the economy fundamentally shifted since the Great Recession, no one is able to work just the minimum any longer; deciding to work the least amount of time possible will put you out the door while opening the door for others who will do anything for a paycheck.

This fast paced world is what most people are used to living in, but it is not the most conducive to your health or even to your productivity. Most people are not getting much more done than people did in the past – even though they are spending way more hours at work each week in the hopes of catching up. This is often because of job burnout. Job burnout is when workers will start to feel the effects of working too hard, being on call all of the time, and never getting to have the life that they would like because they need to be available to their bosses at all hours of the day.

Job burnout is easy to understand: you will work hard in order to complete tasks and they will pile up more and more; you become stressed, which will make the work more difficult to do because the stress is getting in the way. Next you start to fall behind, which causes more stress, and the circle continues. Soon you are burnt out from the work that you are doing without actually getting anywhere.

Job burnout is very common for today’s workers. Sometimes they might feel the burnout for a short period of time; they could go on a vacation or take a few days off and be fine with getting back to work because they are refreshed. Other times the issue is worse and people will find that it is almost impossible to get out of this issue. It will begin to interfere with their quality of work and quality of health, and it will build up to a point where they do not want to do the work or find the motivation.   

Definition

Job burnout is generally described as a state of exhaustion where a person suffers from constant tiredness, whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally; and always has reservations about his/her skills and abilities to perform quality work. It is a special type of stress that is associated with a working environment. Being burned out on a job will leave a person in a state of exhaustion and might lead to loss of interest in the job.

Dr. Audrey L. Canaff, a UC Foundation Assistant Professor based out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, defines job burnout as “a response to the stresses of work that leaves the body fatigued, frustrated and hopeless.” 

Other definitions have also been suggested by researchers in this field, many of the most widely accepted definitions are listed below:  

“Burnout is that state of a person where one’s physical and mental resources are totally depleted due to exhaustion and stress. In the urge to achieve an unrealistic expectation, either imposed by the person or by the job managers, the person wears him- or herself out.” 

With the high paced world that we live in, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle or have to take on more work. Some employees will do this on their own in their eagerness to show how great they can be. Other times, work has to be added on – whether they are willing to have it or not – because of staff cutbacks and there is no one else to do the work. Over time, all of this extra work is going to wear the person down to the point of being exhausted and unable to do the work any longer.

Burnout is characterized as a process that begins with extreme stress that persists for such a long time that it gradually starts producing strain in the employee causing tension, anger, tiredness, pessimism, and rigidness, which then become the traits of their personality. 

Going through burnout can be difficult for any individual employee. They have to deal with stress on a daily basis, and while a little stress can help to keep them motivated and going on the right track, too much can cause them to get anxious and worry about what is going to happen next. Think about it, when you are stressed out and have a lot of things to get done, how do you act? Like most people, you are going to become irritated and singular in focus; anything that gets in your way or annoys you will get its head cut off. You are usually not going to be much fun, and if this stress continues unabated for a prolonged period of time then this could become the norm of your personality rather than the exception.

Burnout is described as a syndrome of emotional collapse, depersonalization, and bad performance at the workplace. Burnout is common among the individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind.

Despite the fact that you are working hard on the job at hand, your performance is likely to fail once you reach job burnout. This is often due to the fact that you are so tired and exhausted that you are making sloppy mistakes and your attention to detail slips. Rather than getting better, this issue is going to just get worse.

Job burnout affects more than the work you provide, but pretty much every aspect of your body. This is why job burnout is such a difficult thing to deal with on a regular basis. Instead of being able to take a few days off and get back to work, you will instead find that it will take a lot of readjusting and maybe even a new change of pace in order to get your life back in order. It can be a difficult road because you have often been on this path for a long time that so many things about your life and the things around you have changed as well. 

History

The word burnout is used so casually that most people misuse this word without knowing its complete definition. Burnout was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger. He used this term to refer to a sense of fatigue and an inability to function normally in the workplace as a result of excessive demands on the individual, especially among helping professionals.

In the 1970s and the early 1980s some researchers and clinicians in the U.S. recognized a phenomenon among professionals that were doing emotionally demanding work, such as social work, volunteer work, legal work, or police work. At the start, the people were committed, involved, devoted, and enthusiastic towards their jobs, but they gradually ended up in a situation where they felt drained of energy and detached from their work. The bad news was that they didn’t achieve anything and left their jobs without a sense of accomplishment. These were the signs later discussed by many researchers.  

Christina Maslach, who is one of the pioneers in this field, published the first version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory with her colleague Susan Jackson in 1981 (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). This measure then became the “gold standard” for measuring burnout.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) divides burnout into three components:

  1. Exhaustion: the state of mental weakness and tiredness
  1. Cynicism: being reserved or indifferent while in the workplace
  1. Lack of professional efficacy: feelings of poor self-esteem and being unappreciated at their job.

These three components of burnout can be used either by you or a professional to determine if you are suffering from burnout and need to receive the care and relaxation to get back on the right track.

The ideas behind job burnout are fairly simple to understand, but still many people fall victim to it. There is just so much to do in today’s world, and getting the break that you desperately need means that you will fall behind and have that much more to catch up on at a later date. This can just add more stress and make it difficult to relax at all. The consequences of dealing with job burnout are tremendous and many people will still try to get through it despite how they feel. Dealing correctly with stress and job burnout – like what will be described throughout this guidebook – can help you to keep your health, take a breather, and get some help if you need it.

Summary

  • Job burnout is a condition many will face throughout their career
  • Being overworked and under-appreciated on the job is a root of cause for job burnout;
  • Symptoms are compounded when job pressures encroach in other aspects of one’s life;
  • An overwhelming sense of being lost and confused at work is a tell-tale sign;
  • Difficulty finding motivation to work is a definite symptom.

Stress and Burnout Relationship

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important.” – Natalie Goldberg

This is an apt way to explain how stress and burnout can be described together. Burnout can result when stress starts to take over your life. When you are working so hard on everything with too much urgency that nothing takes priority, it can still get your heart going. Once you get disconnected in this way, burnout is just around the corner.

As mentioned above, stress is a huge factor that contributes to whether a person will develop burnout or not. When you are stressed out, there are usually a million things that need to be done all at the same time. Stress can make it really difficult to concentrate on the job at hand, and you might find the motivation to get it all done is no longer there. Over time, you can fall behind and acquire even more stress as you get reprimanded and the work piles up. It is a vicious cycle that you will have to deal with for a long time unless you take the right steps to properly deal with it. This chapter is going to spend some time talking about the relationship that is present between burnout and stress.

Statistics and Facts about Stress and Burnout

The results of surveys conducted on job burnout depend on their methodology and geographic location, thus it has been very rare for researchers to present the same exact statistics related to burnout.

The American Institute of Stress (AIS) defines burnout as “a disabling reaction to stress on the job.” Burnout is not only painful for employees but also for the nation as a whole, as they bear the expense. According to AIS’s estimate, U.S. industry bears an annual loss of $300 billion due to job stress. The cost is measured by employee absenteeism, reduced efficiency, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal, and insurance fees. AIS also revealed that almost 50% of all American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout.

The American Psychological Association performed a survey on U.S. adults and found three major reasons for stress: money, the workplace, and the economy. The survey also discovered the symptoms that were developing in affected adults; they are anger or a short-temper, nervousness, and being unmotivated.

A survey conducted in USA revealed that due to the imbalance of their workload and personal relationships, two-thirds of employees are suffering from high levels of stress and exhaustion. More than one-third of employees are losing their productivity by one hour or more per day. Similarly, stress causes one-third of employees to miss three to six days of work per year.

CareerBuilder.com partnered with CNN.com and performed a survey on American workers related to their work experience. They reported the following: 

  • Employees involve themselves too much in their jobs; even in 2005 the percentage of workers that checked in with the office during vacation time was 33%.
  • The ratio of employees that feel high stress on the job is one-half of all workers.
  • The stats about working mothers revealed that 44% of them feel worried and preoccupied about work even when they are at home.
  • 25% of working mothers accepted the fact that they have to bring their projects home at least one day a week.
  • 19% of working moms described that every so often they work on weekends as well. This shows that not only are they working hard at their jobs, but their jobs are cutting into their personal family time and taking away from the part of the week they are supposed to be able to sit back and relax.
  • Surveys reported that among the category of working dads, 37% want to switch to a job where they can keep a work–life balance, no matter if they are offered less pay. This shows that many people understand that they are going through job burnout, they just are not able to do anything about it or leave the situation because they need the money.
  • 36% of working dads reported that they bring work home at least one day a week.
  • Among the same working dads category, 30% of them very often work on weekends.

These statistics clearly demonstrate the level of pressures that workers go through. It does not matter if you have a family or are on your own, male or female, young or old. Everyone can go through job burnout if they are not careful with the way they handle their health.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 million people are unemployed in the U.S.; however, it is astonishing that aside from a too high unemployment rate, a great number of American workers want to quit their jobs. A survey from December 2014 reveals that 1.7% of employed people left their jobs. This rate has been found to be increasing slowly since 2009, and burnout has been identified as one of the significant reasons behind this trend. It is natural and inevitable to have tension and stress when you are overloaded with work, but when stress itself becomes overloaded, it is time to start worrying. It leads to fatigue and negative changes in the human personality.

General Causes of Job Burnout

There are many causes of job burnout and each person might be experiencing a different kind that they will need to deal with. Some of the primary factors that you may feel with job burnout include:

  • Lack of any control—this can happen when you do not have the ability to influence the things that affect your job, such as the level of your workload, the assignments you are given and even the schedule. You might also go through job burnout if you do not have the right resources in order to get the work done, such as time or money.
  • Job expectations that are unclear—some jobs do not provide the clear instructions you need in order to perform all the aspects of your job. You might not know what the supervisor wants from you and you do not know how much authority you have in your position. When this happens, it is difficult to feel like you belong at work. In addition, if others do not know what you are supposed to be doing then they might put more work on you than is your responsibility or not listen to you when you are the one in charge.
  • Values do not match—if the employer you work for does not share your value, this can start to take a toll on your body and health. Of course, many people might not find out about this mismatch until they have been with the business for a long time or they might feel that this is the best they can do with the economy so they stay and deal with it.
  • Poor fit with the job — with the current economy, most people feel they have to take whatever job they are given just to have a paycheck. While this is a logical way of thinking, it could cause job burnout if you end up with a job that is not fitting with your skills and interest. This can cause some internal stress and make it more difficult to find the motivation to do the job, which can cause some more stress.
  • Extremes in daily activity — most jobs should have some variety but be consistent enough that you know what to expect from day to day. Unfortunately, there are a lot of jobs that are always either chaotic or monotonous. If either of these describe your current job, you will need to find a way to remain focused and on task all of the time; over time this is going to lead you to feel fatigue and eventually job burnout.
  • Lack of support — many jobs make it difficult to have a personal life; you do not have the weekend or nights off because you need to get all of the work done. This can cause feelings of isolation at work because you are no longer getting a break of getting to enjoy other things in life. This can cause you to feel more stressed out in the long run.

Burnout and Your Health

Burnout is something that can influence all parts of your life and make it difficult to get other things done in your life. You are so tired and focused on the job that you have, it becomes difficult to focus on any other part of your life and things start to get away from you. Some ways to figure out if you are more likely to go through job burnout is to see if any of the following pertain to you:

  • You are so attached to work that there really is not much of a balance between your personal life and work life. You will often bring work home, work on the weekends, and can’t go more than a few minutes without checking your phone to see if there is an important message waiting for you from work. You really do not have much of a personal life unless you are forced.
  • You want to be everything to everyone at work. You never turn down a project, will stay late, and basically are not able to say no when asked to do something.
  • You work in a profession that helps others. Examples include: teaching, counseling, and health care. These are fields often require work to be done outside of regular hours in order to not waste time with those you are working with. For instance, teachers cannot spend an hour having the children they teach mill around while they work on their lesson plan or grading papers. 
  • You feel like you do not have any control over the work you are doing.
  • Your job is either boring or just has too much going on at once.

These are just some of the things that might be present if you are dealing with job burnout. Sometimes you may experience a few of these things temporarily and will not go through job burnout, but you should take precautions just in case.

Why are all of these things important and why should you try to avoid dealing with the issues that could cause job burnout? There are many consequences of having job burnout to your health. If you do not address the issues that come with job burnout or ignore them completely, the consequences can become worse and it will become more difficult to cure. Some of the health issues that you may have to deal with when it comes to chronic job burnout might include:

  • Vulnerability to illness—when you are stressed out, you will find that it is easier to get sick.
  • Obesity—those who are stressed are more likely to eat an unhealthy diet that can lead them to becoming obese.
  • Insomnia—with work always on your mind and bothering you all of the time, it is difficult to get the sleep that you would like.
  • Stroke—stress can do a number on your heart because it is causing the heart to beat faster and harder than it is used to dealing with.
  • Diabetes—eating an unhealthy diet can lead to diabetes.
  • High cholesterol—with so much time spent at work, you don’t have time to exercise each day and develop and maintain a healthy diet; which can result in high cholesterol levels that in turn will cause other health problems.
  • Substance or alcohol abuse—you might turn to some alternative methods (i.e., illegal drugs, prescription drugs or alcohol) for dealing with stress if you are not able to control the feelings that you are dealing with at work.
  • Anxiety—stress will go hand-in-hand with anxiety and both can make you feel sick.
  • Depression—when you are not able to control the world around you, you may start to feel depressed about what is going on.
  • Spill over to your home life—if you are angry with something at work, you will find that it will contaminate your home life. You may take that anger out on someone who does not deserve it, causing strife in your relationship.
  • Fatigue—working all of the time and constantly thinking about work can cause a lot of fatigue in your body. You might always feel tired, even after getting a good night of sleep. This can make it more difficult to concentrate and get other things done at work.

As you can see, there can be dire consequences to your health if you are dealing with job burnout and do not attend to it. If any of these symptoms are in your life and you are dealing with job burnout, it is important to take steps for addressing it right away. One of the following chapters provides some great ways to properly deal with job burnout so you can get your health back on track and start to feel better.

Benefits of Cutting Out the Stress

While stress is a reason that someone might go through burnout, it is not always the determining factor. As the professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said, “It is how people respond to stress that determines whether they will profit from misfortune or be miserable.” Not everyone responds to stress by going through job burnout, and you do have some control over the stress in your life and how it affects you.

One of the ways that you will be able to help prevent burnout in your life is to reduce stress. Most people who have job burnout have it at least in part because they are dealing with too much stress in their lives. Most of the side effects of job burnout also come from the stress you are feeling. This leads to the conclusion that reducing your daily stress level can be an effective way of eliminating, or at least reducing, the likelihood that you will have to deal with job burnout in your life.

 So now you are wondering how it is possible to get rid of stress? There are a myriad of things that can you stress you out, no matter where you turn or what is going on. You have the stress and worry about kids, relationships, family, work, school, and many other things all day long. It is true that stress is going to be around no matter what you are doing or how well you try to ignore it. But learning how to better manage stress and cut it out – at least a bit from your life – can be the key to keeping yourself healthy and avoiding the burnout that will eventually catch up to you. 

There are many benefits that you can get from reducing the stress in your life and they do not stop at work. Some of the benefits you will be able to realize are:

Improved overall health, quality of life, and feeling good about yourself

Admit it, when you are feeling stressed out it is really hard to feel good about yourself or anything that is going on in your life. You will look down on yourself and everything else but nothing seems to be going your way. Many times, when you cut the stress out of your life, you are better able to see the good things in your life and feel better. Also, improving your health and the quality of your life makes it easier to feel so much better about life.

Improved cognitive function and memory

Ever feel like you are forgetting things all of the time. You cannot remember where the keys are, if you signed a note, or that you were supposed to pick Jimmy up from school? While forgetting things on occasion is considered normal, this issue can be compounded when stress is involved. The more stress you have in your life the easier it is to forget the things that are important or that you should be remembering.

More energy for the day and more sleep at night

When you are spending all of your time being stressed out and running around hoping that you did not forget anything, you’re wasting a tremendous amount of energy. When you are able to eliminate some of the stress you are feeling, you will be amazed at the weight that is lifted off your shoulders and how much more you are able to get done. In addition, when you are not thinking about all of the things that went wrong in the day, that you forgot to do, or what you need to get done in the morning, it is much easier to just relax and fall asleep when you hit the pillow at night.

Heartfelt Feelings Emerge

Stress is a feeling that is going to take over your life. You will not be able to feel much else in your life other than maybe anger and sometimes hate. Once you reduce the stress a bit, you can start to feel more of the heartfelt feelings such as kindness, appreciation, and love.

Less anger and irritability

Everyone knows that when they are feeling stressed out, it is easier to lose their patience and they might lash out. Often the lashing out is going to happen to someone who has nothing to do with the situation and does not deserve it. This lashing out will usually occur because you are feeling on edge and believe people are breathing down your neck, even if they aren’t. When you get rid of some of your stress, you will find that you have  more patience in life and the little things that used to bug you are not that important any longer.

It is not possible to get rid of all the stress that you are feeling in life; in fact, a little bit of stress is something that can be good for you to help you to make the decisions that are right for your life. But it is still important to learn how to manage the stress so that it does not end up taking over your life and causing job burnout.

Overview

After much research on burnout, scientists still do not agree on one unique definition. Some see it as an exclusively work-related phenomenon, while others see it more broadly.

The general population is mostly unaware of the details of the term burnout. For example, if people feel bored at their workplace and need a challenging job to perform, they think of their situation as burnout. Others describe their feelings of depression as burnout. However, the most common instance that people use the term burnout is when referring to the inability to handle work-related pressures.

Talking about present-day economic conditions, there are various organizations that want to achieve their desired goals with a minimal work force. This decision often results in a greater workload on their employees that may be too challenging for them. The employee never gets a sense of completion at the end of the workday. In this competitive atmosphere, there is too often an emphasis on quantity over quality. It is not only a threat to their productivity but also to their physical health. No one person can do the work of two or three, no matter how hard a business wants them to. Instead of getting the extra profits or the work that they want, they are going to soon be left with a whole company full of employees who can barely preform because of burnout.

Job burnout is a serious problem that can transfer to the individual’s personal life. Evidence has been found that the feelings of being burned out on the job are similar to feelings of clinical depression. Many individuals experiencing job burnout share the same personality traits. Those people that are dedicated, involved in their work, and highly motivated to be successful are the ones that generally experience burnout at higher rates than their colleagues who do not exhibit those traits. Those individuals that are dedicated to succeeding may place more stress upon themselves to reach their goals and their self-imposed high expectations. If those goals or expectations are not met, then that individual may experience high levels of stress, which leads to job burnout.

Those experiencing job burnout may also experience changes in their personal lives. Many that are experiencing burnout can be withdrawn at home and in their social circles as well. The individual’s attitude may change as that person becomes more prone to lash out at those with whom that person shares social relationships. The individual may also reach out to “aids” to help them self-medicate, such as alcohol, drugs, sleeping pills, anxiety pills, cigarettes, or other stimulants.

However, burnout may happen even if you are not overloaded with work. In this case, what is the reason? People either pursuing the right career but the wrong job may also suffer from burnout. Surveys have showed that the frequency of the occurrence of burnout symptoms is significantly higher among physicians than among the rest of the population. Emotional exhaustion is also seen in physicians.

Burnout can occur in many different situations and is a serious issue that will need to be addressed. Those suffering from burnout will find that it is not going to remain at the job and then leave them alone once they get home; soon family life and relationships will be affected. Recognizing burnout and figuring out how to deal with it as soon as possible is the best way to get back on track.

 Summary

  • Stress is a prime factor for causing job burnout;
  • One’s inability to handle stress at work contributes to job burnout;
  • Overwhelming job stress bleeds into one’s personal life, thus elevating one’s susceptibility to burnout;
  • Job burnout can be avoided by learning effective stress management skills.

Occupations with a High Burnout Rate

“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That is the secret of success and the key to being regarded honourably.” – Jiro Ono (a legendary Japanese chef)

Unfortunately, this is what most people do to the extreme, and this can easily lead to job burnout – even if they love their job.  

Ten Occupations with High Burnout Rates 

The occupations that experience the most employee burnout are those in the human services field. People that work as social workers, teachers, lawyers, police officers, engineers, physicians, and customer service representatives experience the most burnout in their line of work. The reason why many human service occupations experience more burnout than others is due to the high level of stress in their work environment and the emotional demands that are part of their job. The ten occupations that have high burnout rates are:

  1. Physicians

According to the American Medical Association, almost half of all physicians experience symptoms of serious job burnout. The reasons behind it are thought to be the extreme stress of patient care, long hours, and an excessive workload while practicing medicine. Within the category of physicians, the ones that are handling emergency cases are recognized as more vulnerable to burnout.

All of this is compounded on the fact that many doctors have to work even when they leave the office. Depending on the area, they might be on call for when a patient is admitted after hours for an emergency. They might have to come in and work extra hours if the hospital is short staffed. And even if they are not called in for extra work, there is the issue of paperwork that will need to be filled out before they can go home. Almost all doctors will have a great deal of stress and those living with a doctor have come to expect that they will be burned out at some point or another from the job. 

  1. Nurses

The nursing profession is also suffering from burnout. An article written in The Journal of the American Medical Association states that burnout among nurses exists due to high nurse-to-patient ratios. Another journal, ScienceDaily, points out the reason behind burnout in nurses is the long multi-hour shifts that are often required in this occupation.

Nurses have many of the same issues as doctors do. While they might not have to worry about some of the big picture like the doctors, they often work long hours, fill out piles of paperwork, and have to be there for comfort and support of patients even when they are beyond exhausted. Many nurses are also on call when needed so the work can still follow them home.  

  1. Social Workers

Compassion Fatigue by Tracy C. Wharton, M.Ed., and MFT describes that the personal life of a social worker is severely affected due to an abundant workload and client communication. This stressful routine can result in burnout related to the social worker’s personal relationships. This condition has been characterized as Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) syndrome by the National Institutes of Health.

Social workers often have to be on call and hold various hours based on the work that they have to do. If a child has been taken from their parents because of a tip in the middle of the night, the social worker has to be there to deal with it. Paperwork and other parts of the job can make things even worse at times.

  1. Teachers

An astonishing fact has been presented by THE Journal is that among all the public service jobs, the teaching profession has the highest burnout rate. It has revealed that mostly the youngest teachers, especially the ones that are under the age of thirty, become the target of burnout. The rate of young teachers leaving their profession is 51% higher than those that are older.

Thinking about the job of a teacher, it is no wonder that they will experience job burnout, especially those who are new to the field and who have not had the chance to get their system in order. Not only do they have to teach students, they have to come up with lesson plans, grade papers, decorate their rooms, plan field trips, and communicate with the students, parents, and other teachers. Besides the teaching part, none of this can be done during school hours because they are supposed to be spending that time with the students. This leaves a lot of spill over to potentially happen once school lets out.

  1. School Principals

Being the principal of a school is a great responsibility job; the National Association of Elementary School Principals pointed out that the burnout rate for school principals is increasing. As a result of its survey, it has been discovered that due to the constant stress and pressures of the job almost 75% of elementary school principals are suffering from job burnout.

School principals often have the same work issues that teachers do. They are in charge of running a school, hiring and firing teachers, talking to parents, dealing with unruly students, creating budgets, and trying to work with the school board all at the same time. This can easily go past regular working hours and make it hard for the principal to have a life outside of school.  

  1. Attorneys

The nature of an attorney’s job is highly stressful due to extreme competition among colleagues and the situation of facing the new problems of their clients every day. An article by the American Bar Association, published in Law Practice Magazine, described that an increase in burnout had been seen among attorneys.  

Attorneys often work long hours in order to meet with clients when it works best for the clients. They will have to investigate the case, conduct interviews, and make the case so that their clients get the best terms. Most of this work will not get done during regular business hours, making it so that the attorney has to work many more hours, and many of them later, than they would like.

  1. Police Officers

Police officers cannot avoid being susceptible to burnout, because of their pressure cooker job that includes high-risk physical activities as well as the emotional stress of facing the worst of human nature on an ongoing basis. It is mostly the police officers that are extremely committed and devoted towards their profession in the beginning of their careers that are afflicted with job burnout.

A police officer must tackle a great deal action in order to get their job done. They have to always be on the lookout, ask the right questions, and make sure that the peace is kept. They have to work days and nights, often rotating, and they have to work holidays as well. These hours and shifts can get long and hard to manage, even if the job was not as stressful.

  1. Public Accountants

The field of public accounting has also been found in the circle of burnout-affected professions. Burnout has been recognized as a common problem in the public accounting field, according to Monster.com’s Ledger Link. The nature of their jobs requires manipulation of a large amount of client data and numerous business trips, especially during the tax season. Their tight schedules and the extreme deadlines of their work leads to consistent stress and exhaustion. 

Stress is what really gets to those in this position. They might be able to get most of the work done in normal business hours and will not have to be bothered much at home, but the responsibility of keeping the client data and numbers right, especially when it comes to something like taxes, can be really stressful. One wrong move and the IRS would be knocking at your door.

  1. Fast Food Workers

Burnout is not only confined to tough, routine occupations; it also affects the employees that are assigned non-challenging and monotonous work. MarketWatch, a publication of The Wall Street Journal, pointed out that employees of the fast food industry that are given boring and uninteresting repetitive tasks fall victim to job burnout.

Despite having a job that is monotonous and has large amounts of repetitive work all of the time, fast food workers are still under a lot of stress as well. They are required to work long hours, varying shifts, and for a low wage. Lunch and dinner rushes can be stressful because customers are always demanding their food first even when it is not their turn. Management often reduces crews on a moment’s notice so the workload much be shared. Anxiety about missing work is high because with most of these jobs there is no vacation pay and the pay is so low most workers cannot afford to miss a shift. This all contributes to the burnout in this field.

  1. Retail Workers

The MarketWatch article discussed above also indicated the turnover of retail workers. It revealed that among full-time workers of non-managerial retail jobs, turnover is about sixty percent, and among part-timers, the rate is 110%. That means that as a rough estimate, within a single year, ten percent of positions are filled twice. An article on Monster.com also contributed to the research by describing job burnout in the retail profession is higher where employees are not appreciated by managers and feel under-rated.

Retail work can be difficult to keep up with when job burnout occurs. Employees are filling in several roles at once and their hours often fluctuate, especially when it comes to the holidays (Black Friday anyone?). Often they will feel stressed out and that the job is not worth the hassle for the low pay. 

These are just a few of the more common positions that might have job burnout. This does not mean that job burnout cannot happen in other jobs that are out there. It is possible to get job burnout at some point regardless of which position you hold.

Summary

  • A myriad of occupations in the human service field are more inclined to induce job burnout, yet job burnout occurs in nearly every field;
  • The extra work hours in the human service fields that required to stay level on the job are a contributing factor to inducing burnout;
  • When work is too easy or too stress, one becomes susceptible to job burnout;
  • To combat the onset of burnout, one must take the necessary precautions to establish a firm, specific and steady work/life balance.

Types and Causes of Burnout

Now that you know a bit about job burnout and how you might develop it, it is time to learn about the types of burnout and the things that might be the cause of it. There is not one kind of burnout that people can get, and each of the types will depend on the situation, the job, and the things that are causing the burnout. There are also many different things that you can experience that could cause you to go through job burnout. This chapter is going to look at both parts of job burnout to help you recognize if you are dealing with burnout or what signs you should watch out for before job burnout occurs.

Types of Burnout

Some researchers at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics have established the differentiation of burnout on the basis of coping strategies. A survey was given to 429 workers of different occupations, and the results have suggested three different types of job burnout and related types of coping strategies.

  1. The first type identified was Overload Burnout. It is usually common in employees that want to achieve success and excellence until they reach perfect results. The strategy they use to cope with their stress is to complain about organizational behavior; they feel that the hierarchy is imposing limits on their ability to reach their goals. However, these conditions deliver them straight into job burnout. Unfortunately, there is not much that will change with the organization of your position and you will end up  getting more and more work in order to meet the demands that they impose on you.
  1. The second type of burnout recognized was caused by the Monotony of their job tasks and a work environment that does not offer personal development to its employees. They themselves feel under-challenged and try to cope with the stress by avoiding accepting job tasks and isolating themselves from work. This behavior plants a seed of boredom and a lack of personalization in a job, leading them toward job burnout. While often burnout is from having too much work to do, it is possible to get burnout from being bored with your job. No one wants to sit and do the same job all of the time over and over again without any change and this could eventually lead to the burnout that you are trying to avoid.
  1. The third and final type of burnout was dubbed Worn-out. It is found in people with a lack of motivation to perform their assigned work. Besides the will to achieve their goals, stress creates a barrier that prevents them from achieving success. These individuals simply give up in the face of stress. Whether the work is too chaotic or too basic, there are times when people become worn out from doing whatever type of work they have all of the time. Instead of working through it and trying to get it done, people who have this kind of burnout will give up and say that they cannot do it.

These three types of burnout are just part of the story. There are other measurements that are used to determine if someone has burnout and how severe it is.

Another scale, The Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire (BCSQ-36), gives similar subtypes of burnout:

  • Frenetic: The people within this category are those who are too ambitious and involved in their job to the point that they even sacrifice their well-being for their jobs. These might be the Type A personalities who can’t seem to put down their phones or computers and let someone else take it over for a little time. Often they do not have a lot of personal friends and if they do have relationships, the other person is often abandoned and will have issues with this. Work is their whole life and nothing else matters.
  • Under-challenged: The person that has an indifferent and dull personality, and fails to find personal development in the job falls under this category. Sometimes the person will take this job in order to get a promotion to something they are more qualified to, or they might not have the qualifications for a better job so they get the lower one. Either way, the person is doing a job that does not help them to develop and will be bored at the job until they can find something new to do.
  • Worn-out: The employees who think their efforts go unacknowledged and they have little control over the results are the ones that are categorized this way. Many employees feel this way when they are at their jobs. They feel that they work hard each day and take on extra projects and work extra hours without anyone to notice. Often this is just because management is just as busy as you and does not have time to give any praise. Either way, it is discouraging to the person who is looking to do a good job as they might get burned out from trying so hard and receiving what they believe is adequate recognition.

As you can see, there are different ways to determine if you have job burnout and each person could be dealing with a different kind. It is traditionally thought that in order to get burnt out someone has to be running around with a chaotic schedule all of the time and they cannot keep up. While this is one kind of burnout, as shown above, there are other times when you get burnt out without having too much work to do; rather, it is going to come because you are bored or unchallenged or you have too much stress and are not able to motivate yourself to do the work.

Causes

When you are experiencing burnout, there are a variety of things that could be causing the burnout that you are going through. Some people will respond to too much work while others will have an issue with not enough work, boring work, and not feeling appreciated. This section is going to spend some time looking at the variety of causes that could be making it difficult to get work done.

Feeling overworked and unappreciated are not the only reasons for burnout; there are many other contributing factors.

  1. Work-Related Causes

This is the number one reason that some people are going to experience burnout. While it is possible to get burnout from some of the other things that are going on in your life, most people will find that burnout comes from something that is going on at work.

  1. In many organizations, especially in bureaucracies, employees are often assigned monotonous, boring, and repetitive tasks. To the people that are creative minded, doing an uninteresting job is a tough task. The dull routine of the workplace can become a reason for job burnout. When you are doing something that never changes and is boring, you will not be happy with the job that you are in regardless of how much you are making or the other perks of the job. Often the perks of the job are the reason that you will stay around, but they do not add to the job satisfaction and job burnout is a big possibility.
  1. A hectic and rigid work environment also contributes to burnout. Sometimes an individual is given a task that feels as if they are pushing a boulder up a hill. It is time-consuming, and there is just not enough time to get it done in the time they are given; the tasks feel as though they are never-ending. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and a feeling as if they have a lower value as an employee. Or they might have one or two tasks to do that are taking up their time before their boss comes in and gives them an even bigger task or a lot more tasks. Either way, they are not in charge of a lot more work than they were used to and the tasks together are much more than they are able to handle in the timeframe. This can cause a lot of stress and can make burnout inevitable.
  1. Having a critical boss can bring loads of stress to an individual in the workplace. A boss that heaps loads of work onto their employees, nit-picks through their work, or micromanages them can lead to feelings of performance anxiety. If employees in the workplace are constantly feeling that their work is never good enough, then they will never be able to relax and do their job properly. They will be constantly vigilant, waiting for the critical boss to take another jab at their work performance. Everyone has had to deal with that one boss who behaves as if the employee does not have a life outside of the office. They will give more and more work while they apparently do nothing at all. Not only do they hand out the work they will be very critical and find fault even where there is none. It can be hard to come up with the motivation to do work when there is no way to get it all done in time, and even if they work hard on it, their boss is going to find something to complain or criticize about it. Perhaps even asking them to redo the work.
  1. Having demanding clients may not be much different from having a critical boss. Clients that are never happy with the work that has been produced for them or that demand more of the employee’s time can become a source of stress. Clients’ demands can weigh on the employees minds long after the work day is done, leading that person to become stressed out over work issues when they should be focused on their personal lives instead. There are clients who feel that they should be the center of the universe for the duration of the project and cannot understand when the employee gets busy or has to get other things done for their other clients. While it would be nice to spend all of your time on one client, no client is willing to pay the money that would entail so, and you must take on more clients through the process. But the demands that come from demanding clients can make work and life difficult.
  1. Those employees that feel that they are overworked and underpaid can end up feeling chronic stress, which can turn into job burnout. Those that are overworked and underpaid often feel under appreciated. They are often passed up for promotions or raises, watching others receive them instead. The imbalance of recognition can be stressful to them. Many times even when an employee is making a good salary, they will be forced to do more work than what is in their job description. This could be from others missing out on work, shortage of employees or just too much work. All of this extra work is going to make it difficult to feel that one is getting paid what one is worth for the time and effort.
  1. An individual in an organization may find that their personal values do not match the values of the company. If the company is doing something that is ethically questionable, that individual may feel conflicted in performing the task. On one hand, the individual performing the task would want to keep their job and continue to earn a paycheck; however, they may be going against their personal values and morals to do so, which can be a stressful situation. This internal stress might cause burnout. Some might think that the easy solution is to just quit the job and find another one that more closely matches the values you have. But when you add in that the economy is rife with uncertainty and there are mouths to feed at home, this “easy” solution might not be the best one.
  1. Work dynamics have an important influence on the work environment. If an individual is dealing with an office bully, a micromanager, or colleagues that leave them feeling undermined, that can leave them feeling stressed. Stress can also manifest in the types of jobs that do not allow the employee much downtime. Jobs that follow the employee home and cause an imbalance to their social life will lead to burnout. This is becoming more and more the world that we live in. Despite wanting to spend time and resources on a family, work is determined to follow the employee, even on vacation when they take time off. Finding the right work/life balance and learning how to say “no” when it is needed is the best way to deal with this.
  1. If an employee is assigned some work and either due to a communication gap with the manager or some other reason he/she is unable to understand the job responsibilities, a continuous feeling of stress about unclear and vague goals drags the person toward job burnout. The employee wants to make sure that they are doing the job that is asked, but they do not understand what is going on. The whole time they are working on the project, they are going to be second guessed if they did it right or what will happen if they do it wrong. While it might seem simple enough to call and check that they are doing things the right way, this is not always possible and the employee may have to rely on their own knowledge to get the task done.
  1. Outside factors can play a role as well. If the individual is experiencing emotional conflict at home or a conflict in their values in relation to the workplace, that can lead to burnout as well. Life events do not know the “boundaries” of work and personal life. If you are having issues with a relationship at home, those feelings of anger, hurt, or confusion are not going to just disappear the second you walk into the door of the office, and the work and communication you have to do for your job is not always going to stay at work where it belongs. Outside factors that are running you down can make it hard to concentrate and get the work that you need done on time.
  1. Hectic work routines and intense workloads on employees is another key factor behind job burnout. Many organizations demand extra efforts from workers while failing to reward them for the hard work they do. Many individuals handle the work of two employees, which can easily lead to burnout. This situation is known as High-Stress Times with No Down Times. In this state, employees feel themselves stressed and cannot manage to recover from fatigue. These employees are taking on the workload of two people which is really twice as much as they should be able to handle. It is easy to see why they would get stressed out and not be able to get it all done. Many bosses choose to ignore this fact and instead still expect all of this work.
  1. Lifestyle-Related Causes

While many of the cases of job burnout will occur while you are at work (or at least from the work that you have to do at all times), there are some other causes that demand examination. Another cause that you should watch out for when it comes to job burnout is lifestyle-related causes. These are things that might be connected to work that can cause the burnout, but sometimes they will have nothing to do with work. It is going to depend on the situation that is at hand. The following are some of the lifestyle related causes that you may have to deal with when it comes to burnout.

  1. A work/life imbalance is one of the reasons for job burnout. When a person does not get enough time to relax and socialize with others and feels they are stuck at work all the time, this leads toward job burnout. Weekends and night time are supposed to be times when workers get to forget about work and get a break. They are supposed to allow the employee time with their family, time to relax, and the time that they need to take a breather and recharge before coming back to work. This was a life-and-work balance that worked for years, if not decades,, but recently the life part has been overtaken by the work part, and many times it is difficult to find the separation between the two. When you are never getting a break and your whole life is taken over by a job – especially one that you do not like all that much – you will quickly burnout and have difficulties with your work.
  1. To prove one’s worth at the workplace, many people burden themselves with too many responsibilities and want to handle everything alone. They might volunteer to take on a lot of projects and spread themselves too thin. While this might be a good way to impress the boss, taking on too many responsibilities can cause burnout. Plus, if you are not able to get it all done like you promised, which can happen if you offer to do too many things, you might find that it is impossible to get it all done and might end up disappointing the boss.
  1. Due to continuous stress, depression, too much involvement at work, and many other similar reasons, a person may suffer from a lack of sleep. Disturbance in sleeping times may also contribute to burnout. When you have a lot on your mind, it is easy to stay up at night thinking about it. You might stress over the way a meeting went today, feel like you have forgotten something important, worry about what might happen the next day, and so many other things. With all of this stress and these thoughts running around in your head, it is easy to see why falling asleep might be difficult. Over time, lack of sleep can make it impossible to get other things done in your life and you will find that you are more stressed out and irritated over the little things in life. This is only going to get better if you are able to reduce the stress and get your life back.
  1. Social relationships play an important part in the development of one’s personality. Sitting and partying with your friends and relatives makes you feel lighter and better. However, if you are leaning towards the condition of no interaction with close friends and relatives, it may leave you vulnerable to burnout. You need to have these social interactions in order to feel at your very best and get all of the bad energy out of your body. Those who are not able to get out and have some fun without the worries of work are going to feel like they are not able to concentrate on anything other than work no matter what else is going on in your life. You have to make sure that you are dealing with a good work/life balance if you want to stay healthy, and failure to do this can result in missing out on other things or feeling your very best.
  1. Personality Traits

Another area that you will have to watch out for when you are dealing with job burnout is your personality traits. When you are sick, not feeling good, or going through a lot of stress, it can be difficult to just sit there and think that everything is going the way that you want and it’s all good. There rarely are happy stressed out people, and when you have reached the point of job burnout, you know that you are stressed out. This can make your personality different than it would be if you were allowed a break or could take some time off. The following are some of the parts of your personality that can be affected by job burnout. 

  1. Many people that are anxious professionally and want to achieve perfection every time have continuous reservations about the quality of work they perform. They might look over the work many times and obsess over what the boss may say about the work they have done. If you are concentrating too much on just one project, it is going to catch up to you soon since you are going to be worried about the same little parts too much. 
  1. People that have negative and sarcastic approaches to life may also find themselves the victims of job burnout. These people already have a negative outlook on life and they will see almost all situations as an affirmation for what they already believe. It is hard to keep these types of people happy because they have pretty determined to be upset about what is going on no matter how good it might be. These people already have a head start on developing job burnout and it is quite easy for them to experience it whenever something bad goes on.

Difference between Stress and Burnout

Job stress and job burnout sound like similar terms; however, they are different from each other. Stress is actually followed by burnout, but burnout will not necessarily be the result of too much stress, as stress involves an overload of physical and/or psychological pressure that may result in burnout due to of lack of interest and motivation for the respective work.

Some of the differences are given in the table below:

 

Burnout Stress
1. Burnout is characterized by disengagement and damages a person emotionally. They will not be able to feel the motivation they need to get things done. 1. Stress involves the over-engagement of a person and affects his/her physical abilities. They will still try to get everything done, but it might not be done as well as before or as quickly.
2. Burnout produces dullness in a person. 2. Stress makes the person over-reactive.
3. Burned-out people become hopeless and cynical. 3. Stressed people have the ability to control situations in their lives.
4. Burnout causes lack of motivation and hope in people. 4. Stressed people lack energy.


Summary

 

  • Stress differs from burnout in markedly specific ways, primarily stress overloads you physically and/or psychologically and can possibly lead to burnout;

  • The reasons for job burnout are myriad, and one doesn’t need to suffer from all of the causes to experience burnout;

  • Exceedingly boring work or an excessive amount of work lead to burnout.