Are YOU at Risk of Burnout?

Are you at risk of burnout?
Are YOU at risk of burnout?

This is the fourth in a series of articles about burnout. Are YOU at risk of burnout?!

We use the term an awful lot these days to describe a period of intense busyness and stress but what exactly IS it? There are three key components which all have to be present in order to make a diagnosis:

1.Emotional exhaustion

You feel tired all the time. You don’t feel up to facing your day, even if it’s just a normal day. You wake up every morning with a feeling of dread. Day after day you feel this, and it doesn’t lift, even after a week off.

2. Cynicism and detachment

You may have started out as someone who really enjoyed working with people or dealing with clients. Now, you find yourself feeling increasingly angry and irritable toward them and more and more mentally removed from your work.

3. Reduced personal efficacy

You’re losing confidence in your ability to do your job, even though you used to be quite good at it. You work harder and harder but you seem to accomplish less.

It is usually a minority of the working population that is experiencing burnout — so what is happening with everyone else? One of the most well-known studies on burnout was carried out by researchers Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter and published in 2001 in the Annual Review of Psychology.

They identified six key risk factors

  • A mismatch in workload (you simply can’t keep up with the demands of the job)
  • A mismatch in control (you feel you have too little control over some or all elements of your job)
  • A lack of appropriate awards (whether it’s in monetary terms or in feeling that your efforts are appreciated)
  • A loss of a sense of positive connection with other people in the workplace
  • A perceived lack of fairness
  • Conflict between values

Later in a study published in 2016 they were able to tease out what makes one person experience burnout while his or her co-worker does not. They looked at Burnout (with all 3 factors described above present) at one end of the scale and Engagement at the other end of the scale with no exhaustion or cynicism, and a high degree of accomplishment and professional efficacy).  But in between there were 3 other groups, as follows:

  1. The Overextended Group (high workload, tired but content)

They reported high exhaustion, but otherwise they were doing fine. They were involved rather than cynical, and they were confident rather than discouraged. The major problem they were facing in the workplace was a very heavy workload, with high demands. They believed in themselves and their work, but were always tired. THESE DID NOT EXPERIENCE BURNOUT.  (They could certainly benefit from the work demands being reduced though and finding ways to get a better work/life balance.)

  1. The Disengaged Group (Cynical, detached but not tired)

In contrast, these were not tired or discouraged, but they did feel cynical and detached. They had lost the motivation that originally attracted them to this work. Although not tired, their hopes and ambitions were frustrated. THIS GROUP WAS THE CLOSEST OF THE THREE TO BURNOUT.

  1. The Ineffective Group (Cared about their work but didn’t feel it was meaningful)

They had energy, and they cared about their job, but they despaired at the lack of meaningful work. Making a steady contribution was not building confidence in their own abilities. They would benefit from more recognition and appreciation.

So this research argues against the idea that burnout is simply the exhaustion of working too hard. (And when it comes to solutions for workplace problems, one size does not fit all!)

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.