It’s an epidemic! While burnout is often the result of systemic challenges in the workplace and not a problem with its employees, as professionals, we need to discover, learn and practice tools that allow us to navigate working in such an environment.

The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as a “special type of work-related stress…a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” It is emphasized that burnout is NOT a medical diagnosis but a phenomenon that originates in the workplace and can spill over into other areas of life.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout in its classification of diseases. They identified the following three dimensions of workplace stress:

1. Feelings of energy depletion

2. Increased mental distance from one’s job; increased negativism and cynicism related to one’s job; and

3. Reduced professional efficacy

Following are some examples of the three dimensions identified by The World Health Organization:

Feelings of Energy Depletion

  • Negativity is one’s go-to response
  • Chronic complaining
  • Critical/harsh texts, emails, voicemails
  • Inability to distinguish between activity and progress
  • Unclear communication with others
  • Disorganization
  • Sacrificing quality for expediency
  • Missing deadlines

Negativism/Cynicism

  • Disillusionment and decreased commitment and productivity
  • Grumbling and complaining
  • Yelling
  • Sarcasm and cutting remarks
  • Blaming others
  • Gossiping
  • Criticism
  • Condescension

Reduced Professional Efficacy

  • Quickly losing confidence in one’s abilities
  • Viewing difficult tasks as threats to be avoided
  • Dwelling on failures and negative outcomes
  • Believing that difficult assignments are beyond one’s capabilities

While burnout begins in the workplace, below is a list of some of the systemic issues that might lead to burnout…

Some of the key causes of burnout are:

  • An unbalanced workload
  • A perceived lack of control
  • A reward system that doesn’t match levels of effort
  • Lack of community
  • Unfair practices within the system
  • Company values that don’t match those of the employees

There are several stages an individual may move through leading to full-blown burnout.

They include:

Honeymoon

  • Engagement – You feel excitement with the new employment, new assignment, new team or new manager
  • You feel totally satisfied with your job and have plenty of energy left at the end of the workday

Onset of Stress

  • Some days you begin to run out of gas and have less energy after work
  • You might feel some disappointment in your current assignment and how much is required to meet compressed deadlines
  • It doesn’t feel as though your manager and teammates are carrying their share of the workload

Disillusionment & Job Despair

  • What was once disappointment has grown to resentment about workload deadlines and lack of support
  • You are feeling trapped in the job and can’t see a way out

System Crash

  • By this stage, you need a drastic change
  • Your work environment has become untenable, and you might begin searching for a new job
  • Going to work every day is a major chore

When you see yourself exhibiting any of the symptoms of burnout, now is the time to begin building your resilience toolkit.

Take a few minutes to watch this short animated video highlighting what the dimensions of burnout might look like.

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