The three principle hallmarks of job related burnout – emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lack of a sense of personal accomplishment are extremely good measures for the presence of burnout. However, they are not the causes of job burnout. They are only the symptoms or result of burnout. Six major mismatches between the job and employee are the cause of burnout.
A major mismatch is created anytime there is sufficient conflict between the nature of the person and the nature of the job the person is being asked to do. Where ever these mismatches occur to a high degree, employees will be found who are either burned out or burning out. This has a tremendous negative impact on organizations and the employees within them.
If you are an employee you don’t want to risk burnout because it is complete misery. Burnout can cause you to hate your job, increase your absenteeism, decrease your performance, make you cynical, completely exhaust you and even depress you.
Unfortunately, when the symptoms of burnout are being displayed, rather than attacking the underlying causes the individual displaying them often becomes the sole focus of any effort to alleviate their symptoms. It surprises many to discover the underlying job-employee mismatches are not created by the individual employee. Ninety percent of the time they are caused by the work environment.
Besides the more obvious consequences of burnout, there is also the potential for a great loss of knowledge, expertise and creativity. A person’s vitality and creative force will be stymied or destroyed by burnout. Someone’s passion and sense of purpose can be completely subverted.
Physicians have quit medicine, CEO’s have left the corporate world and experts in every profession have abandoned their chosen fields of endeavor because of job burnout. These are preventable personal tragedies.
For organizations, failure to address burnout in the workplace can result in a dysfunctional workforce, high staff turnover and inferior products or services. The result is a drain on the bottom line due to high employee turnover, increased location and training costs, and other indirect expenditures.
The mismatches which are responsible for job related burnout have been extensively studied by Dr. Christina Maslach. Every employee and every organization should be vigilant for these burnout inducing conditions.
Here are the six major job mismatches which can lead to job burnout.
- Work Overload – Downsizing, budget cuts, layoffs, reorganization efforts all usually result in three things – more work intensity, more demands on time, more job complexity. In short, people are required to do ever more with less. This can leave individuals exhausted.
- Lack of Control – Organizations which become intolerant of creative problem solving in lieu of centralized control will squelch individual autonomy. This reduces an employee’s capacity to set limits, exercise problem solving, select individualized approaches to work, allocate resources and set priorities. The overall effect is a loss of interest in the job and monumental frustration.
- Insufficient Reward – Market forces focusing on reducing costs have also reduced organizations’ capacity to reward their employees in meaningful ways. People seek tangible rewards from meaningful work such as money, security, recognition, benefits, intrinsic satisfaction, etc. If these are lacking people naturally begin to wonder why they are working so hard. More work + less reward = dissatisfaction.
- Breakdown of Community – As organizations grow larger or too quickly a breakdown in the character of the organization can result as short-term profit is chased at the expense of interpersonal relationships within the company. This will inevitably lead to greater conflicts among employees, a lack of mutual support, lack of respect and a growing sense of isolation. Dr. Maslach states, “A sense of belonging disappears when people work separately instead of together.”
- Absence of Fairness – Dr. Maslach perceives a workplace to be fair when three key elements are provided: trust, openness, and respect. When all three are present employees are valued and they will in turn feel valued and remain fully engaged (the opposite of burnout). When these elements are absent burnout will be the direct end result.
- Conflicting Values – If organizations say they are dedicated to excellence service yet take actions which damage the quality of the services they provide then conflict results. This can be extremely frustrating and demoralizing to the employee, especially if their internal moral compass or core values are being assailed. To achieve a quality product or service a company’s values must remain in alignment with those of the employees.
These mismatches can occur in any combination or in aggregate. However, they must each be addressed individually as each will have a unique set of solutions. The costs of job related burnout are devastatingly high, not only for the individual employee but any organization as a whole.
Failure to address these mismatches will result in a dysfunctional and burned out staff with high staff turnover and inferior products or services. I will be discussing each of these individual job mismatches in future posts along with what can be done to lessen their impact or eliminate them altogether.
Do you recognize any of these mismatches in your current work environment? In yourself? If so, what have you thought to do about them?
Call me to discuss at 919-735-0433 (please ask for Fay or Jayme) or for more information —