You may have heard the term burnout before, but what exactly does it mean? Maslach and colleagues (1996) definition of burnout includes three dimensions:
Reduced personal accomplishment
Psychological withdrawal from relationships and the development of a negative, cynical, and callous attitude (Hartney, 2008)
Burnout can manifest as feeling empty inside, fatigue, job dissatisfaction, anxiety, lack of creativity, poor performance, depression, anger, or some combination of them (Maslach & Leiter, 2016).
Burnout is one of the most common psychological symptoms modern people increasingly experience. Chronic job burnout is most likely to occur over longer periods of time however it can occur over shorter terms, like week to week, and even day to day (Bakker & Leiter, 2014).
Since the mid-1970s, a variety of theories have been published on what causes burnout, the role the employee plays in the burnout process, and ways to combat it.
What causes burnout?
The causes of burnout are generally divided between to categories: situational factors and individual factors (Bakker & Costa, 2014).
1. Situational factors include: job demands and (lack of) job resources:
“Role ambiguity, role conflict, role stress, stressful events, workload, and work pressure are among the most important job demands that cause burnout” (Bakker & Costa, 2014)
2. Individual factors include: socioeconomic status and personality variables
Researchers found that four of the Big Five factors of personality were consistently negatively related to each of the three dimensions of burnout.
1). Emotional stability
Whereas people high in self-efficacy, optimism, and self-esteem were better able to handle the job demands.
Ways to combat burnout.
In relation to burnout, proactive behaviors have been linked to reduced levels of burnout. What exactly does proactive behavior involve? They are “self-initiated, anticipatory actions aimed at changing oneself and/or the situation to bring about an improved future” (Otto et al., 2020).
Voice – is “making innovative suggestions for change and recommending modifications to standard procedures even when others disagree” (Dyne & LePine, 1998)
Job Crafting – “taking proactive steps and actions to redesign what we do at work, essentially changing tasks, relationships, and perceptions of our jobs” (Berg et al., 2007). Check out 5 examples of job crafting here.
Feedback-Seeking Behavior – “the proactive search for feedback information in the environment” (Crommelinck & Anseel, 2013)
Individual Innovation – “the intentional introduction and application within a job of ideas, processes, products and procedures that are new to that job and which are designed to benefit it” (West & Farr, 1990)
Check out other tips to avoid burnout (e.g. giving back to others, exercising) on mindtools.com!
Bakker, A. B., & Costa, P. L. (2014). Chronic job burnout and daily Functioning: A theoretical analysis. Burnout Research, 1(3), 112-119. doi:10.1016/j.burn.2014.04.003
Berg, J., Dutton, J., & Wrzensniewski, A. (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter? Regents of the University of Michigan.
Crommelinck, M. & Anseel, F. (2013). Understanding and encouraging feedback-seeking behaviour: a literature review. Medical Education. 47: 232–241
Hartney, E. (2008). Stress management for teachers. London: Continuum International.
Maslach C., Jackson S., & Leiter, M. (1996). Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologist Press.
Maslach, C. & Leiter, M. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry 15:103-111.
Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra-role behaviors: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108-119. doi:10.5465/256902
West, M.A., & Farr, J.L. (1990). Innovation and creativity at work: Psychological and Organizational Strategies. Chichester: Wiley.