4 Ways of Beating Burnouts

Work Presenteeism
Knowledge Center

Best Practices
Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

4 Ways of Beating Burnouts

Burnout is a serious problem for professional individuals, as well as the team and organization they are working in. It links to many physical and mental health problems, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and increased alcohol and drug use. Valcour (2016) argues that the process of beating burnout to achieve more sustainable career success involves recognizing the symptoms, examining the underlying causes, and developing preventive strategies.

Burnout is believed to be a three-component syndrome that arises in response to continual job stressors and comprises exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy:
  • EXHAUSTION is the central symptom, and refers to profound physical, cognitive, and emotional fatigue that makes people underperform and feel depressed. A culture of work presenteeism, intense time pressure, or work overload, could be a main trigger of exhaustion, especially when people lack control over their work, or don't have the necessary skills to finish it.
  • CYNICISM, also known as depersonalization, represents a decreasing personal engagement with job. It can stem from work overload, but it is more likely to occur in presence of high conflict, unfairness, and exclusion in decision-making. Long-time cynicism indicates that an individual has lost connection to, enjoyment of, and pride in his work.
  • INEFFICACY. The feelings of incompetence and a lack of work achievement and productivity are termed as inefficacy. It often occurs in cases of exhaustion and cynicism because people won't perform well when they are feeling fatigue and depressed and lost engagement with their job. But burnout can start with inefficacy if people don't have access to necessary resources and support to do their job well. The absence of meaningful feedback and recognition, which leaves employees wondering about their performance and feeling unappreciated, can also trigger this symptom.

To address all the underlying issues, changes on the job, team, or organization are often required. But there are also strategies people can take on at a personal level to beat burnout:
  • PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE. Record and assess exactly how you allocate your time and energy on different tasks, people, and situations, limit your exposure to those that are non-essential and put you into a bad mood, and make space for restful and positive time away from work.
  • ALTER PERSPECTIVES. Rest, relaxation, and replenishment don't fully address the root causes of burnout. So you must check your mindset, shift your perspective and make some changes. Delegation, roles redesign, personal branding, job trainings and development, and even changing a job, are all among the actions you can take for a sustainable career.
  • REDUCE EXPOSURE TO JOB STRESSORS. You need to set rules of dealing with activities and relationships that activate unhealthy stress. This involves managing the expectations from co-workers, supervisors, clients, and even family members for what and how much you're willing to take on, and ways of working together as well.
  • MAKE CONNECTIONS. If you feel burnout, chances are that others in your organization are suffering too. Seeking out connections with them and banding together to offer mutual support, investigate problems, and brainstorm and advocate for solutions, you will all increase sense of control and connection to job.
Consider burnout as a signal, not as a long-term sentence. By understanding the symptoms and causes and implementing the above four strategies, professionals can recover from and prevent burnout.

Source: Valcour, M. (2016). Managing Yourself, Beating Burnout. Harvard Business Review, 94 (November), 98-101

  Tim Dibble
Project Manager, United States

Psychological Care is as Important as Physical Care

If your wrist hurts every time you sit at the computer you take action. Get a new mouse, invest in a different mouse pad...


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