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.