10 Costly Truths, Consequences and Realities of Job Burnout

The long-term consequences of unremitting job related burnout can be severe.

Okay, so you feel completely burned out at your job, but you’ve decided to put your head down, grind away and tough it out until retirement. You have come to believe your current misery is better than the unknowns of change. Have you stopped to consider, though, what you will give up or lose with acceptance of a comfortable misery strategy?

Simply tolerating burnout is not a fail-safe way to go. The long-term consequences of unremitting job related burnout can be severe. They will not only exact a toll on the burned-out individual’s mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health, but will affect others in their life as well. 

Here are ten undeniable truths, consequences and realities about job related burnout and why it should be definitively addressed at all costs.

8 Steps to Recognize and Eliminate the Burned Out Mindset

When you are thinking with a burned out mindset you are thinking with an abnormal brain.

It is hard to engage in normal brain thinking when you are thinking with a burned out mindset, hard but not impossible.

The hallmarks of burnout have been well described — emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. These may accurately describe the symptoms, but these are not the same as the changes in mindset which can occur as a result of burnout. Just what are the key consequences of burnout on mindset and how can they be eliminated?

The burned out mindset can best be characterized by the words limited and restricted, both negative descriptors. People who are burned out often come to feel:

7 Steps that Will Rescue You If You’re Burned Out at Work

You will never be able live a happy life of passion driven purpose if you can't escape the burned-out mindset.

When someone is severely burned out, one of the most difficult obstacles they face is the feeling they’re locked into a situation from which they cannot escape. They come to feel hopeless, even helpless. This is part of the burned-out mindset.

So, you’re burned out at work. You feel exhausted, cynical, and lack any sense of meaningful accomplishment. You’ve come to hate what you do, even though you’re very good at it. Work no longer provides meaningful rewards and you’re afraid if something doesn’t change soon you will forever lose a valuable part of your being. You ask yourself, “Now what?”

I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there myself.

When someone is severely burned out, one of the most difficult obstacles they face is the feeling they’re locked into a situation from which they cannot escape. They come to feel hopeless, even helpless. There is a tendency to concentrate on what they perceive is lacking rather than what experience, talents and abilities they already possess. This is part of the burned-out mindset.

Fear is the ever-present companion of the burned-out mindset. The fear of changing jobs overrides the absolute need to do so. Even if the current work environment is completely toxic, it is often seen as more secure somehow than the unknown pathway of change. This is a false sense of security.

How secure are you in your work if it is soul crushing, if you feel as though you’re dying a slow death? How long can a toxic work environment survive before the business implodes and employees are let go? How secure will you be if you are forced to make a snap decision to quit because you can’t take it any longer but before you have adequately prepared for your exit? How secure is your job if it builds so much anger and frustration that one day you explode and lash out at a coworker or your boss, or fail to do your work properly and you’re fired?

With so many companies going out of business, downsizing to support the bottom line or because of mergers and acquisitions, job security is no longer a given. If you are in a bad or toxic work environment, discover you aren’t suited for the work you do or just plain hate what you do, it is incumbent on you to change your profession or work venue as soon as you can safely manage it.

There is one big reason for doing this — you will never be able to live a happy life of passion driven purpose if you are burned out. 

You’re Burned Out at Work — Should You Stay or Should You Go

If you are burned out at your current job and don't know if you should make a job change, ask yourself these questions.

You can not live a life of passion driven purpose if you are burned out at work. In a toxic work environment, a fully elaborated version of you becomes impossible.

One of the worst aspects of professional job related burnout (JRB) is the very real prospect of having to decide whether or not to stay in a toxic work environment or to seek employment elsewhere. This is never an easy decision at best. The choice is always complicated by the fact that JRB causes an individual to feel locked into their current circumstances somehow.

Okay, so you hate your job. You look forward only to the weekends and you despise the thought of going back to work on Monday. At work you feel spent, cynical, and ineffective — the three principle hallmarks of burnout. But how do you know when it is time to punch up the resume and plan your exit or to put your head down and suck it up?

First, you must decide if the underlying causes of your burnout lie within you or with your current work environment. Only 10% of the time does an employee burn themselves out. Ninety percent of the time it is the work environment which burns out the employee. 

If the organization you work for is churning through employees, the majority of people you work with are unhappy and no one seems to care, it is probably the work environment which has burned you out.

I have reviewed the six major job-employee mismatches which cause burnout in previous posts — Work Overload, Lack of Control, Insufficient Reward, Breakdown of Community, Absence of Fairness and Conflicting Values. It is not only the number of mismatches present but their intensity which determines the presence and the rate of job related burnout in the workplace.

If you feel the problem lies with your work environment but you still value your work and the people you work with, it would be prudent to approach your employer about changing the work environment to eliminate any job-employee mismatches. Warning, this message is not always well received, especially if the employer or administrator feels workplace redesign will cost money.

It is all in the approach. You have a better chance of engaging your employer to change the work environment if you can show how workplace redesign can save money or increase profits. Take the example of employee turnover. Replacing just one employee can cost anywhere from one-and-a-half to three times their annual salary. Beyond employee turnover, eliminating the six major mismatches can:

  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Decrease employee complaints
  • Decrease employee absenteeism
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Decrease customer complaints
  • Increase the quality of products and services
  • Eliminate worker hostility and promote workplace harmony
  • Decrease the threat of lawsuits

Added up, these can markedly decrease costs and increase profits. By eliminating the underlying causes of burnout businesses can transform from just surviving or dying to thriving. 

Big picture, a business which fosters the six major mismatches or does nothing to address them will not survive. Sooner or later, that business will always implode. The reason is simple, it will not be able to retain good, hard working, loyal, dedicated and engaged employees and will eventually drive away its customers to competitors who do value their customers and employees.

If you have found yourself in a toxic work environment and you have attempted to convince your employer changes need to be made but find no one is listening, then you have a tough decision to make. Should I stay or should I go?

Many who are burned out will argue they are to old or have too much time invested with a company to change jobs. They will say the job market is too soft and it will be hard to find another job. They will talk about the need for more education rather than rely on their experience. They hope things will get better or think they’ll just hunker down and suck it up until they retire.

This fear based, self-limiting thinking is part of the burnout syndrome. Burned out people will actually prefer the misery of their current circumstances over the unknowns associated with finding a new job or career. They may feel they are in hell but at least they know the names of all the streets. It take less energy to stay put than to change and they are already running low on energy.

If conditions become so bad at work that the pain of staying outweighs the pain of leaving, the employee will leave. This is often under the worst of circumstances.

If you are the one suffering it is incumbent on you to realize it is your responsibility to make change happen. Life is too short. If there is a choice to end needless suffering, I am a big fan of making that choice.

Burned out individuals are at risk for workplace violence, anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol addiction, divorce, family problems, health problems and suicide. It isn’t just the employee who is affected by burnout. Everyone in their life around them is affected as well.

You can not live a life of passion driven purpose if you are burned out at work. A person’s natural set of unique talents and abilities can never be fully developed or deployed if creativity is being stifled. In a toxic work environment, a fully elaborated version of you becomes impossible. 

If you are burned out at your current job and don’t know if you should make a job change or if you feel stuck and can’t, ask yourself these questions.

  • Is there a real likelihood my work environment will change for the better?
  • Is this the way I want to live the rest of my life, feeling burned out?
  • Will it ever possible to work feeling burned out and be happy?
  • Is my current job really that secure?
  • Will it really hurt me, cost me anything or take that much time to look around and see what else is out there for me?
  • What other parts of my life will improve if I take another job where I feel happy and fulfilled?
  • Is this my preferred future or can I envision something different for myself, something much better and a closer fit to who I am?
  • Who else but me can change my current circumstances for the better?
  • Who is in the best position to decide what is best for me but me?

Asking yourself these questions and answering them honestly can go a long way toward getting you to a much better place in your work life. We spend a third of our lives working. Shouldn’t it feel meaningful? 

You want to feel happy and engaged in your work. You want to feel you are fully exploiting your natural and unique set of talents and abilities. You want to grow, build, create, explore, and help others. You want to become a fully elaborated version of the authentic you. I just know it.

Are you feeling burned out and miserable at work but resistant or hesitant about making a change? If so, CONTACT me and let’s discuss it.

 Contact Dr. Brunout

Your Purpose in Life, 3 Questions You Must Ask and Answer

“To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

We decide whether or not to fully elaborate ourselves, to fulfill our purpose.

We decide whether or not to fully elaborate ourselves, to fulfill our purpose.

Like most life changing moments, it crept up on me and totally grabbed me. It was the most miraculous event I’ve ever witnessed. I remember the moment it happened as if it was just now.

It was 1990 and I was a first year resident in family medicine on a surgical rotation. At three in the morning the head of the trauma department and transplant team paged me and asked if I would like to scrub in on a renal (kidney) transplant operation. “Absolutely!”, I said. I knew it would be a neat operation to assist on but nothing prepared me for what I was about to witness.

Scrubbed in, gowned up, ready and standing by the table in the operating theater I watched as the transplant surgeon carefully removed the donated kidney from a red and white six-pack cooler. I remember thinking how odd it is donated organs are transported in off the shelf drink coolers.

The kidney had belonged to a trauma victim. Donated at death it would now be used to improve and extend someone’s life, about as poetic an act of mercy as one can imagine.

The surgeon placed the kidney onto a sterile cloth covered tray and began to prepare it for transplantation. It was an ashen gray, well, kidney-shaped lump of tissue about the size of a small fist. The ureter, a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder, extended from the kidney along with the renal artery and vein.

Using a pair of surgical forceps and scissors, he carefully picked away at the donor kidney removing any extraneous fat and fascia form the organ and its vessels. Even though kidney transplants are the most common and most successful organs transplanted, I was skeptical this gray lump of tissue was going to work. It didn’t look like it could. It didn’t look at all viable to me.

This activity went on what seemed like forever until finally he place the organ in a bath of cool saline and stood up. Mean while, the patient had arrived and was being transferred onto the operating table. I introduced myself and we chatted briefly before the anesthesiologist put her to sleep.

I still remember her name. She had been on the transplant list for a number of years. She had burned up both of her own kidneys through years of illicit drug abuse. The consequences for her were severe.

For her, the kidney transplant would be transformational. It would give her a chance to get off of dialysis and on to a new pathway of living. First, she had to demonstrate her willingness to protect this precious gift by protecting herself from the ravages of drugs and alcohol.

She had hit her rocky bottom and there she grabbed hold of hope and began to dream of a new life for herself. She was determined. For the past few years she had remained sober as she waited on the transplant list. I could see it in her eyes, the wide eyed look of a dreamer watching their dreams come true. I wished her luck.

With the patient prepped, under anesthesia and the organ prepared for transplant the surgeon was ready to begin. He started by creating a pocket in the lower right side of her abdomen where the transplanted kidney would be placed. I held a retractor and tried not to get in his way.

The surgeon identified the iliac artery and vein. First, he connected the kidney’s vein to the iliac vein and then the artery to the iliac artery. Both remained gently clamped. Then he connected the kidney’s ureter to the bladder.

His movements were slow, meticulous, deliberate. Every now and then he would point out something of interest within the surgical field or ask me a question. I was enjoying every minute of it and I thought to myself, it doesn’t get any better than this. I was wrong.

After the kidney had been properly placed and the vein, artery and ureter were securely connected he removed the clamp from the renal vein. He looked up at me over his surgical mask and glasses and said, “I want you to remove the arterial clamp.” I was elated. As I reached for the clamp he added, “When you do, be sure to watch the kidney closely.”

I ever so gently removed the arterial clamp, allowing blood to flow to the transplanted kidney for the first time in its new host. I never took my eyes off of the kidney. What happened next still gives me chill bumps.

Within seconds that non-descript, gray lump of tissue turned pink. Within a few seconds more it turned vermillion red. As I stood and stared, the ureter began to inflate as urine traveled down the ureter toward the bladder. In less than ten seconds after releasing the arterial clamp, this transplanted kidney was making urine. It was fulfilling its purpose.

Behind my surgical mask tears was welling from my eyes and streaming down my face. I couldn’t help it. It was miraculous. Even without the benefit of being in its ideal environment, the original host, the transplanted kidney had no trouble fully elaborating its intended purpose.

The donor kidney wasn’t trying to pump blood like the heart, it wasn’t trying to secrete thyroid hormone like the thyroid gland, it wasn’t trying to manufacture digestive enzymes like the pancreas. It was doing precisely what it was designed to do. Its innate inner structure dictated the outcome. It was all there, inside.

I believe all humans have an innate inner structure which determines a purpose to fulfill, just like the kidney. Unlike the kidney humans are different in one very important regard. We decide whether or not to fully elaborate ourselves, to fulfill our purpose. 

You can choose to ignore your inner calling. You can choose to set aside your unique set of natural talents and abilities and live life contrary to your purpose, never to realize or fulfill it. It is estimated ninety percent of people do just that.

Unfulfilled dreams, dead end jobs, toxic relationships, job related burnout, unrealized potential, fear of change, feelings of inadequacy, a scarcity mentality — these are just some of the results of people never pursuing their destiny, not the reasons why.

There is only one reason why. It isn’t because they can’t. It isn’t because they lack education, money, a lucky break, or don’t know the right people. It’s because they chose not to.

In The Alchemist, a book about destiny, dreams, dreamers, those who pursue them and those who don’t, Paulo Coelho writes —

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

If you feel you’re not fulfilling your intended purpose or feel you haven’t yet found your intended purpose, it is never too late to  pause, reflect and ask yourself a few simple questions —

  • Do I know my Life’s purpose?
  • Am I fulfilling my life’s purpose?
  • If not, why not?

The answers are all there, inside.