Everything you need to know about occupational burnout and how to fight it

12th Oct 2016
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Occupational burnout, or job burnout, is a psychological response to stress which is often characterised by depersonalisation, emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, cynicism, frustration and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment at the work place. Studies suggest that job burnout occurs when the gap between job expectations and employee performance widens due to the stressful work environment.

One's attitude towards jittery situations and their willingness to fight adversity at the workplace determines how close they are to burnout.

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Burnout in present day work culture

Burnout has become quite common, considering that economic values are placed ahead of human values and society judges people based on factors like their rank in competition exams, the salary they take home and the car that they drive. Employees are psychologically and economically exhausted, and as a result failing to achieve work-life balance, thus resulting in occupational burnout.

The present job-demand model, which is influenced by job resources and job demand and is followed by most organisations, plays a significant role in causing burnout. Job demands can be both internal (insecurity, leading to pressure to perform) and external (long working hours). While job demands lead to exhaustion, job resources negatively correlate to job disengagement.

Different phases of burnout

According to famous psychologists Gail North and Herbert Freudenberger, burnout takes place in 12 different phases:

  • Compulsion to prove oneself or excessive ambition
  • Setting high expectations for oneself and trying to work harder than everyone else to fulfill them
  • Neglecting personal needs, such as family and social life
  • Displacing conflicts and failure to locate the source of the problem
  • Revision of values and devoting complete energy to work
  • Regular denial of emerging problems
  • Withdrawal from social and family life and a state of isolation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depersonalisation, or seeing life as a series of different mechanical functions
  • Inner emptiness
  • Depression
  • Complete burnout

How to avoid burnout

Job burnout, if left unattended, can destroy a person completely. There is nothing wrong in striving for a successful career and wealth, but not at the cost of self-destruction. Money can't bring you out of burnout phase; therefore, you need to maintain a proper work-life balance to lead a professional life filled with happiness. Besides, cognitive factors such as self-satisfaction, commitment to work, hope and learned resourcefulness may also protect you from burnout.

Conversely, organisations can form a connection with their employees with regard to the following six areas of work life – workload, rewards, job control, values, fairness and community. They need to ensure that their employees have proper work-life balance and lead happy lives.

Ideally, a burnout should never be allowed to happen. But when it does occur, it cannot be ignored. If you or anyone else you know suffers from burnout, take adequate measures to deal with it.

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