What Is Job Burnout?

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Business Burn Out

Feeling Overworked and Underappreciated Can Lead to Exhaustion

If every day is a bad day at work then you may be experiencing job burnout. It has more to do with lack of recognition and control at the office than actual stress.

The important difference between stress and burnout is that the former can take a serious physical toll on the body. The latter is emotionally damaging.

When an employee has job burnout his/her spirit will be overwhelmed with cynicism and negativity.

The loss of hope, motivation and the feeling of being all dried up inside are unmistakable signs of job burnout. Work is not the only cause.

Lifestyle can contribute to this condition as well as personality traits. It can be described as burning the candle at both ends, and nobody is immune to job burnout regardless of the occupation.

What Factors at Work Cause Job Burnout?

  • When job requirements are not made clear, and employees are expected to read minds.
  • People might not notice that an employee is trying to do his/her job and fill the gaps left behind by colleagues who are no longer with the company.
  • Having to put up with overly demanding and difficult co-workers
  • Working in a chaotic environment, and realizing that people who have more political clout seem to work less.
  • When bosses expect employees to be superhuman, and complete enormous amounts of work but with too little time and inadequate resources.
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Jobs in Which People Are More Likely to Be Burned Out

In any of the following professions, workers will reach this stage more quickly due to low compensation, constant physical/mental stress, and in some cases having to make split second life or death decisions.

  • Police officers
  • Doctors and Nurses
  • Social Workers (they are always dealing with tough issues like domestic violence, child abuse and family breakdowns)
  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Teachers
  • Military Personnel
  • Customers Service Reps, Managers and Supervisors

Symptoms of Job Burnout

Intense frustration and unhappiness will eventually lead to anger. An employee may notice that his/her performance is declining and perhaps not. The person will not care either way.

Getting along with bosses and/or colleagues will become increasingly difficult and burned out people will respond to the drain on their emotions with fits of hostility.

When problems do arise the burned out worker will react with indifference, causing a complete mental and emotional shutdown.

The syndrome then takes on a life of its own. Feelings of disappointment and futility will inevitably lead to depression. Subsequently the quality of work will drop, and this will in turn create more disappointment and guilt.

In desperation the person might search for a new job but without addressing the problem first it will be a recipe for disaster.

Are There Any Ways to Cure Job Burnout?

One way to turn this around is for the employee to reward himself/herself a few times throughout the day such as a quick tea/coffee break. Exploring the ways to reduce stress related problems like yoga or meditation can be a big help.

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Workers can try to turn a particular job into a game, and see if a task can be done in less time than it took to do the day before. Experimenting with news ways to boost productivity can provide a welcome change in routine.

The person may consider leaving the job if there are unchangeable factors causing the problem, such as a bad boss or the threat of layoffs.

If on the other hand an overworked employee can convince a boss to alter the daily schedule then this could improve things dramatically.

Sometimes job burnout can be the result of repetition and boredom. Workers can investigate new courses or seminars that offer additional knowledge in local universities/colleges.

It may be a stepping stone to a promotion or a wage increase. Education just might do the trick.


Burnout: How to beat the high cost of success, H.J. Freudenberger – Bantam Books

Beyond Folklore: Stress Can Make You Sick, Esther Sternberg – The Dana Foundation

The International Labour Organization – Safework, What is Workplace Stress?

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