02 Oct Reducing workplace burnout.
“Burnout is the index of the dislocation between what people are and what they have to do. It represents an erosion in value, dignity, spirit, and will – an erosion of the human soul. It is a malady that spreads gradually and continuously over time, putting people into a downward spiral from which it’s hard to recover.” ~ Maslach and Leiter
People experience burnout for a variety of reasons. Lack of autonomy is a common cause, so you might experience burnout if you don’t feel like you have much control over your work, or if you feel that you never have enough time to finish tasks and projects. Another common cause is when your values don’t align with the actions, behaviours, or values of your organisation, or of your role.
Other causes include:
- Having unclear goals or job expectations.
- Working in a dysfunctional team or organisation.
- Experiencing an excessive workload.
- Having little or no support from your boss or organisation.
- Lacking recognition for your work.
- Having monotonous or low-stimulation work.
What kind of burnout do you have? The Association for Psychological Science found that burnout comes in three different types, and each one needs a different solution:
1. Overload: the frenetic employee who works toward success until exhaustion, is most closely related to emotional venting.
2. Lack of Development: most closely associated with an avoidance coping strategy. These under-challenged workers tend to manage stress by distancing themselves from work, a strategy that leads to de-personalisation and cynicism.
3. Neglect: seems to stem from a coping strategy based on giving up in the face of stress. Even though these individuals want to achieve a certain goal, they lack the motivation to plow through barriers to get to it.
It is important to treat the cause not the symptoms of burnout and work out what is really causing you to feel this way. Individual strategies for addressing burnout include:
- Recognise when passion turns to poison – know your early warning signs
- Increase your self-efficacy – self-efficacy is having the belief in your own ability to accomplish (and exercise control over) personally meaningful goals and tasks. People who have a stronger level of perceived self-efficacy experience less stress in challenging situations, and situations in turn become less stressful when people believe they can cope (Bandura, 1989). The most direct and effective way to enhance self-efficacy is through performance mastery experiences.
- Unplug out of work and schedule relaxing activities.
- Use your leisure time wisely and seek out positive social support.
- Rewind, reflect, remember – Take time to remember why you’re doing what you do. What is your purpose? Why is this work so important to you? What do you hope to achieve?
- Practice mindful relaxation.
- Get the basics right – diet, sleep and exercise.
- Honestly assess your situation and work toward solutions. Ask yourself the following questions: “What am I passionate about? Am I doing those things? Why am I doing what I am doing? What would I feel if I were to change my situation? What one thing can I change today? What action can I take to alter my position? Can I allow myself to take a break from my current situation? How long would I need?”
- Have realistic goals and expectations for yourself and others.
- Mentally remove yourself from the job – Step back and try to look at your job from an outsider’s point of view. Imagine how others might view your responsibilities and the expectations they would hold.
The “burn-out” metaphor implies not only that somebody had to be “burning” (i.e. strongly liked his/her job, was strongly committed, etc.) before he or she would be able to “burn-out”, but also that once a fire is burning, it cannot continue to burn unless resources are provided to keep it on burning. Remember, you matter as much as your clients. ~ Sam
If you have ever seen a building that has been burned out, you know it’s a devastating sight. What had once been a throbbing, vital structure is now deserted. Where there had once been activity, there are now only crumbling reminders of energy and life. Some bricks or concrete may be left; some outline of windows. Indeed, the outer shell may seem almost intact. Only if you venture inside will you be struck by the full force of the desolation. ~ Freudenberger
Dr Renae Hayward’s upcoming workshop Reducing Workplace Trauma & Burnout on 24th October is filling fast. Renae is one of Adelaide’s most experienced trauma psychologists. Click here to reserve your place or find out more: