WHAT IS JOB BURNOUT
BURNOUT IS A CHRONIC CRISIS, CAUSED BY EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
Burnout is a time-limited response to a difficult situation. It means that the source of the problem is external and lies in the professional environment, the requirements and nature of the position, the atmosphere and quality of relationships in the workplace.
You may be experiencing burnout, if you have symptoms in the three following dimensions:
1. EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION:
- You feel tired right after getting out of bed.
- Weekend or even vacation is not enough to recharge energy.
- Working with people has become a source of stress to you.
- You get irritated easily and tend to overreact.
- You feel that you work too hard regardless the actual amount of work.
2. CYNISM AND DEPERSONALIZATION:
- You treat clients and colleagues like objects
- You are indifferent to their problems
- You became cynical & sarcastic
- You make harsh comments about work content of colleagues
- You get into conflicts more often and people started avoiding you
- What's more - you transfer this conduct of behavior to private life
3. LACK OF PERSONAL EFFICACY:
- You feel that your potential has run out &t you will never achieve anything again
- You feel your work is pointless, and its results as worthless
- You feel that you have nothing to offer to your colleagues and clients neither in the subject matter nor relationship
- You have no power to pursue passions and personal goals
If you recognize symptoms from at least 2 dimensions, don't hesitate and take care of yourself! You are your most valuable resource.
Do you want to make a preliminary diagnosis? I invite you to complete the burn-out test.
Did the test confirm your guess? Do you want to know how you can help yourself? Take a look at my OFFER page.
SOURCES OF BURNOUT
Christina Maslach, professor of psychology, identified six sources in her pioneering research into occupational burnout:
Lack of control over your own work
Collapse of the community
Lack of reward / appreciation
Lack of justice
The research carried out in the 1970s is still valid and reflects what my clients complain about when talking about their work environment.
- OVERLOAD occurs when there is more work than full-time jobs, the requirements are unrealistic, deadlines are set for yesterday, and the to do list never shrinks. We experience overload in a situation of job cuts, a frantic pursuit of profits at the expense of employees or unrealistic assumptions of management strategies. This also occurs along with excessive exposure to human contact. In this situation, your nervous system is overloaded and no corporate notions such as "go extra mile", "can do attitude" or "go beyond expectations" will mobilize you.
LACK OF CONTROL
- LACK OF CONTROL over own work occurs is typical along with micromanagement. This happens in situations where the supervisor must check every dot in the email you send to the client, when your suggestions, ideas and opinions are not taken into account, when you have no influence on the organization of your work, when you need to have permission granted for any trivial duty and at the same time you are expected to bring results.
LACK OF COMMUNITY
- I once participated in a street survey on motivation. The question was: "Why do people go to work?" Apart from the obvious answers like "to earn" or "to have a pension scheme" (haha), the answer was "to have friends & acquaintances". This is why LACK OF COMMUNITY can be so painful and heavy with consequences. Community collapses when there are conflicts and intrigues at work. It can also be the result of work in physical isolation – too frequent remote work, constant business trips or decentralized department. This often affects sales representatives, consultants, trainers and freelancers. Such an employee feels on his own and is actually deprived of the emotional support that the team could provide.
LACK OF REWARDS / APPRECIATION
- As people, we are social beings and our well-being depends on the quality of relationships with others. We like to look in the eyes of others, we flourish when we hear a compliment, and we expect fair payment for our efforts. If there is NO APPRECIATION CULTURE in your environment, you may feel frustration and anger over time. Lack of appreciation is often associated with the arrogant attitude of the employer, who believes that if he pays the employee's salary, he no longer has to care about his well-being at work. Meanwhile, all research on employee involvement shows that the usual "thank you, I appreciate your work" has a greater impact on employee satisfaction and retention than a salary raise.
LACK OF JUSTICE
- The above-mentioned frustration will turn into anger if it comes to LACK OF JUSTICE in the distribution of attractive projects, tickets for training and conferences, resources, budgets, supervisor's attention etc. It will also be unfair if you are blamed for the mistakes of other people and departments. In particular, support departments such as IT, HR, Admin and Accounting are often the underdog for th business. Other employees have a lot of grudges against them, while the accountability is by the Management Board and unequal distribution of resources among business and cost centers.
- The last source, or VALUE CONFLICT, is the most difficult to solve. Working at odds with your values creates tremendous discomfort and loss of self-respect, and any compromises between these values are toxic.
We rarely realize what values matter to us at work until something threatens them. If high quality is an important value for you, you will tire yourself in a company where you are on piecework. If your work ethics tells you that it is not fair manipulate for poor pensioners into taking loans with high interest, you either will fall into depression or become cynical to make sure you can bring home the bacon.
Each organization has its own charm as well as pathologies.
Which of the following phenomena do you observe in your work environment?
How do they impact you and your well-being?
If you want to know how to defend against them, take a look at my OFFER page.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY BURNING OUT
The set of symptoms making up job burnout has been defined as “burnout” for a reason. The reason is our MENTAL ENERGY that burns out. And it's not about energy in the esoteric or New Age sense. It's about our brain's ability to undertake and engage in cognitive processes, to show willpower and agency. Without mental energy, our brain reduces the activity of the prefrontal lobes that are responsible for these complex processes and starts functioning only in a safe mode. It only supports life processes for survival. All intellectual activities such as abstract thinking, strategic thinking, making plans and making decisions are either suspended or hard to take up. This is why it is so hard for people experiencing burnout to be as effective and creative as they used to.
But it is more than that. Since the brain operates in a safe mode, it significantly affects other systems and processes in our body. Here is a list of ailments that are often caused by burnout:
- WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM - you easily catch infections, inflammation continues to follow you, antibiotics do nothing but decreasing your immunity
- INCREASED MUSCLE TENSION - you suffer from muscle and joint pains that are resistant to massages and physiotherapy. In fact, your muscles are not sick, but overstimulated by the nervous system. In addition, because of tensions, you are more likely to suffer injuries that last longer
- SLEEP DISORDERS - you have trouble falling asleep or fall asleep with heavy sleep, after which you are not rested at all. The reason is simple: the brain in safe mode functions as if it were detecting threat. Therefore, instead of calming down, it only snoozes and does not regenerate sufficiently during long night sleep
- INCREASED ABDOMINAL FAT - despite exercise and diet, you struggle with extra centimeters in your belly area. It is the type of fat associated with elevated levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Abdominal fat is particularly dangerous because it leads to diabetes and coronary heart disease
- INCREASED BLOOD PRESSURE - you may be experiencing palpitations, chest tightness, and anxiety. Again, the cause is elevated cortisol and adrenaline, and this can lead to heart attacks and strokes
- DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS - you experience troublesome problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating and appetite disorders. And this has a reason: the intestines are extremely richly innervated and connected directly to the brain via the vagus nerve, which transmits all information relevant to both systems
- LIBIDO DECREASE AND HORMONAL PROBLEMS - loss of interest in sex and difficulty conceiving also accompany burnout. It is clear to the brain that in a situation of chronic stress and danger, there are no conditions for breeding and raising offspring. Sexual desire is therefore suspended until more favorable circumstances arise
- DEPRESSION, DYSTYMIA, ANXIETY, MOOD DISORDERS – your motivation decreases as a whole. You become apathetic, irritable, frustrated and even desperate. If this mood lasts continuously for more than 2 weeks, burnout has turned into a mood disorder
- DEGENERATIVE DISEASE SUCH AS PARKISON OR ALZHEIMER - according to the latest brain research with the help of SPECT imaging, burnout has been found to increase risk of Parkison's or Alzheimer's disease
Burnout is reflected not only within mood and motivation. It also tremendously affects our health and physical condition. The body is wise and gives us clear signals usually long before we realize the problem. It is crucial to acknowledge them and take care of our basic needs in a timely manner.
Job burnout does not occur overnight. It is a long process with insidious dynamics. The American Psychological Association has defined 5 stages of burnout: HONEY MOON, DISAPPOINTMENT, CHRONIC STRESS, FULL-CAST Burnout & PHENOMEN FENOMEN. At each stage, you can react and protect yourself from further burnout development. Unfortunately, it is difficult because disappointment and stress are constantly present and inscribed in modern career. So we tend to grin and bear it rather than to react early. It is only when stress becomes chronic and the burnout process is accelerated that we realize that something is not right. Then, however, we are already stuck with sense of guilt and our own impotence, which makes it difficult for us to stop the accelerated wheel by ourselves.
Let's look at individual stages, their characteristics and how to put a stop:
HONEY MOON - for something to burn, it must first ignite. And most of the time when we start a new job, receive a new responsibility or an attractive task, our motivation is very high. We want to prove ourselves, so we put a lot of energy and commitment to work. We are full of passion and optimism, we willingly devote our private time to a higher goal. It is accompanied by a sense of satisfaction, agency and influence. And we hope for this state to last forever. It is obvious though that every honeymoon has to come to an end. And that's good, otherwise we would get rid of all life energy. However, this initial enthusiasm can be maintained by rational task planning and prioritizing one's needs not only at work but also in private life. The key here is planning time for recreation, doing nothing, indulging in pleasures.
DISAPPOINTMENT - a typical disappointment after the honeymoon usually comes from the clash between our expectations and the reality of a given job. In addition, stress, that used to be stimulating, now becomes destructive. This is accompanied by a decrease in motivation, lower productivity, discouragement, avoidance of decisions and undertaking new tasks. Disappointment is typical for every profession and position and is expected as a stage of natural learning curve. Contrary to appearances, it is a valuable moment to evaluate your competences, review goals at work and ask for support from a manager, trusted colleagues or an HR team.
CHRONIC STRESS - if disappointment deepens, our effectiveness will decrease even more, which in turn will result in increased stress levels. Typical symptoms of stress are difficulty sleeping, increased irritation, constant fatigue, forgetfulness, teeth grinding at night, headaches, heart palpitations and appetite disorders. To get rid of it we need to identify sources of stress and remove them. Maybe the position is not suited to our temper? Or maybe we can't refuse and the to do list overwhelms us? Or the organization we work for is toxic and instead of maximizing the potential of employees, exploits them and smothers subjectivity? Whatever the reason, you should protect of your health and balance in the first place. If it is neglected, it gets really dangerous and stress takes on a chronic nature. This means that there occur side effects: we become eternally tired, apathetic, cynical, often aggressive. Delays and poor results become common. Our libido and interest in relationships with family and friends is dropping too. Susceptibility to addiction is increasing. Health problems get worse, their cause is unclear (in fact it is stress and imbalance) and they become chronic. To restore balance, you must act at many levels. Conventional medicine may be ineffective here because it only treats symptoms. It is worth to approach the matter holistically and seek help from a Chinese medicine doctor or Ayurvedic doctor. Coaching with elements of crisis intervention or cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy will be helpful
FULL-CAST BURNOUT - this is the stage at which stress takes clinical form and requires specialized intervention. On a mental and emotional level, the symptoms are similar to depression or anxiety disorders. We experience tunnel vision, which means that, overwhelmed by pessimism and helplessness, we do not see a way out. There are thoughts of resignation, the desire to escape or disappear or withdraw from life. It deepens the sense of failure, hopelessness and despair. At the physical level, digestive disorders, migraines, insomnia, cardiac, hormonal and many other problems depend on individual inclination. All this combined makes us unable to function properly. Usually, an alarm signal is a panic attack, a depressive episode, pre-infarction or heart attack, and even a dissociative fugue (loss of memory, constituting an unconscious escape from reality). If we experience the spectrum of such symptoms, it is necessary to consult a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and physician for the given disease.
FENIX’ PHENOMEN - if you have already burned out, do not lose hope. You’ve been through the worst already. Life has given you an important lesson. In addition to destruction, the crisis also has enormous conducive power. It’s important to channel it for strength regeneration, wound healing and reflection on our functioning at work. Practice mindfulness and compassion. Respect your needs. Review life goals and priorities as well as your beliefs and attitudes resulting from it. Establish your new code of conduct at work and rise high like a phoenix from the ashes. The key here is to talk to your immediate surroundings and seek their support. Every system - whether family or professional - seeks to maintain the status quo. If we enter this system again without making the necessary changes, we will again be frustrated and the risk of burnout will happen again. That is why you should educate your surroundings and set healthy boundaries. It is not easy and may be resisted by colleagues or family who have benefited so far from our previous work style. Experienced therapist o coach will help you reflect on that, draw conclusions and plan to return to professional activity on healthy conditions.