Causes of Burnout (The Job-Person Mismatch Model)

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Devayani Vyavaharkar
Student (University), India

Causes of Burnout (The Job-Person Mismatch Model)


One of the significant transformations during the COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with 'Work from Home' or WFH related work arrangement. Although it has provided employees with many perks, such as reducing travel time, it compels them to devote more hours to work. The increased screen time is taking an extra toll on the employees' physical and mental health.

What is a Burnout?

First coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, Burnout signifies a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, resulting from excessive and chronic stress.

Burnout symptoms include exhaustion due to excessive job demands, extreme fatigue, loss of motivation, decreased satisfaction, sense of low accomplishment, helplessness, feelings of detachment, sense of failure, self-doubt, and increased negative outlook.
It can have wide-ranging outcomes on an employees' health, job performance, motivation, subjective well-being, and family and colleagues' relations.

Causes of Burnout

Several theories and models have been proposed to understand the reasons for Burnout among employees. Here, we will look at the Job-Person Mismatch Model of Burnout. As Maslach and Leiter (1997) proposed, this model addresses the extent of match or mismatch between an individual and their working environment based on six work-life dimensions. According to this model, the greater the amount of mismatch between individuals and their work environment, the greater their susceptibility to symptoms associated with Burnout. The six dimensions regarded as significant antecedents of Burnout are:
  1. Workload: Excessive workload resulting from a lack of sufficient knowledge or skills, downsizing, layoffs, or unrealistic demands and expectations exhausts an employees' energy to an extent where recovery becomes challenging. It forces the employees to achieve more within a shorter timeframe, leading to exhaustion.
  2. Lack of Control: A lack of control is found in situations where the employees have no control or freedom to express their opinions and need to obey the authority at all costs. Sometimes, they have no control over their workload or the resources required to perform a specific task. This results in a lack of interest, reduced employee motivation, and frustration.
  3. Insufficient Reward: Motivation, as a result of either extrinsic factors (money, bonus, or promotions) or intrinsic factors (recognition, praise, appreciation, or respect), is the primary driver that encourages employees to strive for more and achieve their targets while at work. However, lack of rewards such as pay cuts, lack of appreciation, or acknowledgement of an employee's work can be critical components of mismatch. It becomes related to perceived inefficiency as the employees begin to wonder why they work hard only to reap lesser benefits at the end.
  4. Breakdown of Community: Human beings thrive in communities and learn about cooperation, respect, social support, and a sense of values. Destructive effects are observed when communities such as the entire organizational set-up either disappear or break down. This is predominantly visible today as most employees engage in remote work. Thus, it results in isolation, lack of social support, and growing conflict among employees, leading to Burnout.
  5. Lack of Fairness: Unfairness is often observed regarding compensation/pay, workload, opportunities provided, and inequal chances of promotion. This kind of unfair working environment makes an employee emotionally upset, unmotivated, and exhausted. Secondly, it results in a deep sense of cynicism about the workplace, resulting in Burnout among employees.
  6. Conflicting Values: Conflicts between the values prescribed by an organization and how they preach the same can result in frustration and demoralization for the employees. Sometimes, an organization may force its employees to perform jobs through unethical means or tasks that are not in line with their principles. For example, getting customers through deception or telling a lie.
In the current pandemic scenario, employees are indeed facing Burnout at an alarming rate. This model of Burnout helps to understand its reasons and can also enable organizations to take steps to ensure a healthy working atmosphere for their employees, be it at the traditional workplace or a virtual one.

⇒ What are your thoughts about the causes of burnout among employees? Do write them in the Reaction section below.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397422.
Gaither, C. (2014, October 16). Six Job Mismatches that Cause Burnout. Retrieved November 18, 2020

  Borje Vickberg, Sweden

Blame Organizations Produce Burnt-out Employees

This Job-Person Mismatch Model focuses on the mismatch between an individual and his/her work which can be harmful and c...

  Graham Williams
Management Consultant, South Africa

Perception of Burnout

Two excellent posts that sum up very well individual burnout, and organisational dysfunction that gives rise to employee...

  RajVinder Singh Gill
Consultant, United Kingdom

Oragnisational Functions and Perceptions of Burn Out

@Borje Vickberg: Organisations are communities that come together for a specific purpose. Individuals make up that commu...

Professor, Ukraine

Causes of Burnout can be Different per Person

I think that the reason for the emotional burnout of employees is primarily related to the internal metabolism of a pers...

  Borje Vickberg, Sweden

I Disagree!

Burnout is NOT primarily the result of the individuals inability to cope with situations that occur for them as employee...

  Jim Otte
Consultant, United States

Primary Predictor of Burnout: A Low Sweet Spot Ratio

I use a 70%-30% ratio as the ideal goal for high satisfaction (and low burnout probability) in any career. As long as u...

  Daniel Schneider
Business Consultant, United States

Work: A Prison Where you Labor or a Garden Where you Grow?

In reading through the current posts, it seems to me that burnout is more likely to occur among those who view their wor...

  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

Self-stressing for Burnout

Causes and symptoms of "stress" and "burnout" are frequently given as the same and much of what is described here seems ...

  Gandhi Heryanto
Management Consultant, Indonesia

Causes of Burn-out and Remote Working During Covid-19

The WHO defines burn-out is as an occupational phenomenon. It is not classified as a medical condition. "Burn-out is a s...

  Graham Williams
Management Consultant, South Africa

Burn-out and Remote Working During Covid-19 Pandemic

@Gandhi Heryanto: Useful information. Thanks. And sometimes stress leading to burnout is triggered or exaggerated from o...

Professor, Ukraine

Organization Burnout or Personal Burnout

@Borje Vickberg: As I understand it, you are talking about the burnout of the organization. I'm talking about the person...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Personal Burnout Caused by the Organization

@Molokanova: I think Borje is talking about personal burnouts that are caused by the organization. And rightly so. There...

Professor, Ukraine

Burnout Caused by the Organization

@Jaap de Jonge: I completely agree with you if we consider the causes of burnout associated only with the management of ...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Reasons for Burnout can be Personal AND Organizational

@Molokanova: I axtually said it is important that we look at 2 main areas causing a burnout: not just the personal circu...

  Paul Pieter
Consultant, South Africa

Lack of Resources also Causes Burnout

Very interesting also have a look at the Job Demands-Resources model by Demerouti & Bakker. Stress and burnout increase ... 23-6-2022


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