Transcript of Video #2 – Defining Job Related Burnout

In 2009 I went to my practice partner and told him that I either had to make some changes or I was going to have to quit practicing medicine. I told him how I felt – overworked, exhausted, dissatisfied and unappreciated. I no longer felt I was making any difference in the lives of my patients.

I had been reading on the subject of physician burnout and was convinced I aptly fit the definition. So, I put an action plan together for myself and began taking steps to fix what was broken.

These steps I took made all of the difference. I began to enjoy the practice of medicine again. I developed a new patience for my patients. Energy returned. I felt more at peace. I became hopeful for the future again. I began to achieve a more balanced life.

I wondered if others felt the same as me so I studied burnout in depth, its warning signs, symptoms, consequences and treatment. I began to give talks on the subject and they were well received. I found I was not alone. There are staggering numbers of my colleagues and other professionals suffering from job related burnout, just as I was.

The hallmarks of burnout were determined back in the late 70’s and early 80’s through the work of Dr. Christina Maslach. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is still the gold standard for objectively measuring burnout in the workplace.

There are three principle hall marks associated with job related burnout. They are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. In varying degree, some combination of these will always be present when someone is burned out at work.

Emotional Exhaustion – It is a feeling of being emotionally depleted to the point where you feel you can no longer give of yourself at an emotional or psychological level to your company or the people you serve. The KEYWORD is Exhaustion.

Depersonalization – The development of negative and cynical feelings leading to a callous and dehumanized perception of patients, clients or customers which further leads to the view that they are somehow deserving of their problems and troubles. The KEYWORD is Cynicism.

Lack of a Sense of Personal Accomplishment – You feel so little reward from what you do there is a tendency to evaluate yourself in negative terms which leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness in your work creating a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. The KEYWORD is Inefficacy.

Men and women will register these slightly differently. Women will usually hit all three of these and in the order presented. Men will usually get cynical first followed by emotional exhaustion.

Men may or may not hit the third hallmark of a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. Most men will feel their work always has some meaning, at least to them. One thing is certain, if an individual can identify the presence of these hallmarks they are either burning out or burned out.

I don’t have to tell you the costs of job related burnout are devastatingly high, not only for the individual employee but the organizations they work for as a whole. We will explore this further in the next video in this series entitled The Scope of Job Burnout and Why It Matters.

If you click on this link, The Three Hallmarks of Burnout, you can download a document page for future reference. Follow the link to view this video, Defining Job Related Burnout, and thanks for watching.

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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. 

9 Guidelines to Help Proactively Manage Job Related Burnout

You can never live a life of passion driven purpose if you are burned out.

It is the nature of job related burnout to make an individual feel as though they are locked into their current line of work and locked out of seeking other, better and more rewarding opportunities.

It is the nature of job related burnout to make an individual feel as though they are locked into their current line of work and locked out of seeking other, better and more rewarding opportunities.

There isn’t a single industry or profession that doesn’t have a detectable rate of job related burnout. Sure, some are higher than others but job related burnout should be avoided in any profession if at all possible.

It is the nature of burnout to make an individual feel as though they are locked into their current line of work and locked out of seeking other better and more rewarding opportunities. Burnout leaves people feeling stuck, as if they were cemented into place.

It much easier to deal with this workplace hazard by proactively preventing it rather than putting in the energy required to alleviate or eliminate it once it has gained a firm footing. This can best be accomplished by following these guidelines for proactively managing job related burnout.

7 Steps to Eliminate Job Related Burnout from the Workplace

The usual interventions for job related burnout are a lot like relief drinking. The effects are only temporary and new problems are often created in the process.

Common individual strategies at reducing burnout are a lot like alcohol relief drinking — the effects are temporary and new problems are often created in the process.

Common individual strategies at reducing job burnout are a lot like alcohol relief drinking — the effects are only temporary and new problems are often created in the process.

Studies show upwards of 90% of job related burnout (JRB) is caused by toxic and dysfunctional work environments. Yet, so many times the efforts to reduced or eliminate burnout are directed toward the individual and their symptoms rather than the underlying causes, those being Work Overload, Lack of Control, Insufficient Reward, Breakdown of Community, Absence of Fairness and Conflicting Values.

Common individual strategies at reducing burnout have included stress reduction, yoga classes, work/life balance instruction, efficiency training, meditation and mindfulness. While these approaches are not without benefit, they are a lot like alcohol relief drinking — the effects are only temporary and new problems are often created in the process.

Whenever physicians or other professionals are subjected to individual approaches to JRB there is a subtle, if not overt, message that they are the cause of their symptoms. It is implied that they lack sufficient skill training to properly handle their stress, that if they only knew how to handle stress better they would naturally feel better.

Approaching JRB in this way alone doesn’t correct the underlying issues. It merely delays proper interventions which work, frustrates employees, causes resentment and wastes resources.

As I have pointed out in previous posts, stress and burnout are not the same. Stress rarely causes burnout but burnout can and does cause a great deal of stress. Eliminating burnout will eliminate the stress it causes and some other workplace stressors. 

To eliminate both from the workplace you must treat both separately. The key to identifying, mitigating or eliminating burnout is to identify the underlying causes and attempt to reduce or eliminate them form the work environment.