Lack of Control and Burnout

For many people, flying in a commercial airliner represents a complete lack of control.

For many people, flying in a commercial airliner represents a complete lack of control.

For most people, flying on a commercial airliner is the quintessential experience of a complete lack of control. This is mentioned often when people are expressing their fears over flying. A complete lack of control in one’s work is even worse as it is a front running cause of job burnout.

I recently reviewed the 6 mismatches between the job and the individual which can lead to burnout. In my last blog post I began a series of writings on each of these six mismatches beginning with the first, work overload. The second mismatch, lack of control, is the subject of today’s post.

In her book, The Truth About Burnout, Dr. Christina Maslach asserts the following:

“People want the opportunity to make choices and decisions, use their ability to think and solve problems, and have some input in the process of achieving the outcome for which they will be held accountable. There is a world of difference between being accountable and being constrained by rigid policies and tight monitoring.”

Unfortunately, most large companies and organizations throughout the country today are trending toward centralized control. This is especially true in the healthcare arena. Cookie-cutter approaches to producing a product or providing a service, as in treating patients, are often employed in order to control costs. More times than not, it is the physician employee who gets overly controlled.

Thus, organizations become intolerant of creative problem solving in lieu of centralized control which squelches individual autonomy. This reduces an employee’s capacity to set limits, exercise creative problem solving, select individualized approaches to work, allocate limited or needed resources and to prioritize tasks.

Centralized control seeks to take the responsibility for decision making away from the employee. The unintended consequence of this is an employee who no longer feels responsible for what transpires at work because, in essence, they no longer are responsible.

Under these circumstances, employees no longer feel empowered to improve conditions on the job. Innovation goes out the window. With more and more centralized control they get the unintended messages of “you’re too stupid, you’re too dumb, you have poor judgment, we can’t trust you, you’re inept, you are not capable.”

Cold and automated management becomes cold and automated work staff performance. The overall effect is a complete loss of interest in the job, monumental frustration and anger – the emotional hallmarks of burnout as identified by Dr. Maslach.

You know, it just doesn’t have to be this way.

Please, come back here for future posts as I continue this series on the job-employee mismatches leading to burnout and what to do about them. In the meantime, do you feel you have some measure of control in your current work environment? Have you ever felt frustrated over a lack of adequate control in you work? Were you able to change  things for the better in your work? If so, how?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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