In recent posts I defined job burnout – emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (cynicism) and a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment (inefficacy). I also described for you the six job mismatches which can cause a person to burnout – work overload, lack of control, insufficient reward, breakdown of community, absence of fairness and conflicting values.
We have identified that the state opposite of burnout is ENGAGEMENT characterized by – vigor, dedication and absorption. The pathways to engagement can also be defined. There are six and they are the exact opposite of the mismatches.
According to burnout investigator and author Christina Maslach, the six pathways leading to ENGAGEMENT are:
1) Sustainable workload
2) Feelings of choice and control
3) Recognition or reward
4) A sense of community
5) Fairness, respect, and justice
6) Meaningful and valued work
These can only be achieved if harmony is created between the employees and their jobs in a way which lead to changing the job environment as well as the people. Dr. Maslach has demonstrated very convincingly that burnout or engagement are foremost a function of the job situation and not the individual employee.
This is because individual employees can not carry the total burden of adjusting to fit their job. At some point, the job must begin to conform to the employee in a way that is conducive to engagement.
Focusing on just the employees who are burning out without a critical look at the work environment is counterproductive due to the economic law of diminishing returns.
This law states if one contribution (the employee’s) in the production of a good or service (healthcare) is continuously increased and all other inputs are held fixed, a point will be reached at which additional contributions (work) by the employee will yield progressively smaller or even diminished results.
When this occurs, employees will either be burned out or well on their way to burnout. To increase production at this point, one would have to change the entire work environment by making adjustments to every aspect of the production process.
This gets us back to the attributes which will define a healthy and engaged work force – a sustainable workload, feelings of individual choice and control, recognition of reward, a sense of community, fairness/respect/ justice, and meaningful/valued work.
For large and highly entrenched groups or organizations the process of building engagement may be difficult but it is not impossible. I would say to the individual who loves their job but can not abide their current work environment that you can become the agent of change in your workplace.
A single individual can have an enormous impact not only on the mechanics of their work situation but the philosophy and culture of their work environment as a whole. I will be discussing this further in upcoming posts.
In the meantime, do you feel more burned out or engaged? Do you see any of the six mismatches between you and your work at your current job?