What Is Job Burnout?
Job burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to exhaustion, detachment and a decline in work performance. Left unchecked, burnout can severely deteriorate your health, relationships and overall happiness.
Causes and Risk Factors
Job burnout can result from various factors. Christina Maslach, Professor Emerita of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, identified six key domains that link to burnout. Burnout can occur when there is a disconnect between the organization and an individual in some or all of these areas.
1. Workload: An employee has an unmanageable amount of work, overtime is excessive and there is little opportunity to rest.
2. Control: An employee doesn’t have the capacity to influence decisions that affect her job or gain access to necessary resources to perform work effectively. Job expectations may be unclear or the employee may not see a connection between her role and organizational strategy.
3. Reward: An employee receives insufficient recognition and rewards. These can be financial, institutional or social.
4. Community: The company culture is dysfunctional, there is workplace conflict or there is lack of support between co-workers.
5. Fairness: An employee doesn’t feel respected or feels unfairly treated. Examples of workplace unfairness include favoritism and gender pay gaps.
6. Values: There is a disconnect between the motivations of the company and the individual. An employee makes a trade-off between work that has to be done and work that she wants to do.
In addition to the above conditions, certain individuals are more at risk for burnout than others:
• Those who identify so strongly with their careers that work-life balance suffers
• Those who try to please everyone and have trouble setting boundaries
• Those who perform monotonous tasks, such as assembly line work
• Those who work in helping professions, including counseling, health care, emergency services and law enforcement
Organizations with the following characteristics create a high-risk environment for employees to burn out:
• Toxic workplace culture
• Unclear corporate direction
• Dysfunctional leadership
• Sharp changes to management or organizational structure
• Layoffs or hiring freezes