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How Organizations and Employees Can Target Burnout Together

It may seem counter-initiative for someone to point out the stressors that we experience in life, but there is value in doing so. It allows us to recognise what causes us stress in life and how we can better cope with them moving forward.

Stress management is an important aspect of every successful individual's life. Stress is inevitable but how you manage yours will dictate your level of success. But did you also know that there are different stressors in life? There are chronic stressors which are relatively long lasting and develop over time. For example, the may involve ongoing financial problems, workplace responsibilities and marital issues. Societal pressures and burnout are two of most common type of chronic stressors that people face.

Stress seldom comes from sudden catastrophic events but rather from societal pressures that have been ingrained in your minds. We feel such pressures from our social, cultural and economic environment. They are usually recurring in nature and hence the stress is usually accumulated over time. Typically, workplace stress is something that we can all resonate with.

In fact, burnout is commonly associated as being one of the top societal stressors. It can happen to anyone, even those with a high-paying job. Continually stressful work can lead to overwhelming exhaustion and detachment from the job. It can also certainly happen to students, especially with the increasing weight of expectation that has been placed on their shoulders.

Those who experience burnout seek to escape and avoid their work, leading to decreased personal accomplishment and thereby resulting in a lower output for the organization. Burnout has been found to result in many negative consequences such as decreased motivation, efficiency and an increase in job turnover. In fact, there are even countries where citizens get extended medical leave due to their stress-induced burnout.

Job Engagement Alternative research into burnout has seen researchers focus on a positive option to burnout which was labelled as job engagement. Job engagement has become central to burnout interventions initiated by the organization. Such interventions lead people to consider what workplace factors are likely to enhance employee's energy, vigour and resilience. This is achieved by promoting their involvement and absorption with work tasks, ensuring their dedication, sense of efficacy and success on the job

Some may perceive that individual risk factors are at play when analyzing burnout, however there is far greater evidence of situational factors playing a role. People can be quick to blame the individual but as proven by research, perhaps we should point the finger at organizations instead. However, that is not to say that there isn't an interaction between the two that determine burnout.

Burnout Model (Maslach & Leiter, 2005)

There are 6 aspects of the organizational environment: Workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values. Workload and control was defined as the amount of work and degree of autonomy provided to the employee. Rewards refers to the the takeaways the worker received both financial and non-financial and how it matched up with their expectations. Community refers to the extent of camaraderie and interpersonal conflict within the organization. Fairness was deemed to be the match between the employee's sense of social justice compared to that of the organization. Lastly, value represented the emotional value of the employee's job-related ambitions and expectations. It was found that any mismatch between the employee and organization in these 6 areas were found to be relevant in predicting burnout.

This allows organizations to detect early signs of dissatisfied workers who ran the risk of burning out which helped to promote greater job engagement. The model also states that burnout is not entirely down to the individual and a weakness in character but a failure on both ends to exercise effective burnout prevention.

Such prevention strategies need to be worked towards by both the organization and individual. There needs to be a higher level of engagement with the job in order to create a better "fit: between employee and company in order to look after the long-term well being of both the employees and organization.

A symbiotic relationship is the only way to combat workplace burnout especially with the economic landscape hanging in the balance. It is incumbent on organizations to take the initiative and ensure that their workers are being taken care of. After all. their employees performing badly will result in lesser output for the organization.

Unity is strength when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.     - Mattie Stepanek


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