Burnout at work is a stress-related condition that can strike no matter the size or
function of your organization. It could be causing reduced productivity and employee
turnover leading to client dissatisfaction.
Train yourself to spot the signs of burnout early — and apply a few simple remedies —
and you could avoid much of the downside of this pervasive workplace issue. You might
also in the process create a workplace that fosters thriving.
What is work-related burnout?
Merriam-Webster dictionary will tell you that burnout is “exhaustion of physical or
emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
The Mayo Clinic adds that job burnout involves a "sense of reduced accomplishment
and loss of personal identity."
Though not a medical diagnosis, according to Mayo, burnout can affect the physical and
mental health of your associates and employees. If unaddressed job burnout can have
significant consequences on sufferers, including:
● Fatigue and insomnia
● Increased blood pressure
● Heightened vulnerability to illnesses
It can also lead to sadness, anger, and irritability.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to spot this dangerous condition and minimize it,
perhaps helping you to avoid its negative effects on your organization altogether.
What are some job burnout symptoms?
"Physician, heal thyself"; goes the ancient proverb. If you are going to try to diagnose and treat job burnout in your organization, you might want to check the state of your own
work-related health first.
Try asking yourself a few questions, such as:
● Have your sleep habits changed?
● Do you feel like you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once
you get there?
● Do you lack the energy to be consistently and truly productive?
● Are you finding it hard to concentrate?
● Are you making more errors?
● Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
● Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
● Have you become cynical or overly critical at work?
● Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers or clients?
If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you could be suffering
symptoms associated with job burnout. You can't make a proper self-diagnosis, of
course, without eliminating other possible causes. A doctor or mental health provider
might be able to tell you if these symptoms can be traced to underlying health
conditions, depression being one possibility.
Once you’ve done your best a diagnosing yourself for job burnout, you can now more
comfortably go about applying this set of questions to others in your organization.
What are some causes of job burnout?
Factors and underlying causes that can lead to burnout at work are many and varied,
and can depend on the nature of your business and staff. Some of the more common
ones, however, include:
● Lack of control — inability to influence decisions that affect one's job or position,
e.g., work schedule, nature of assignments, workload size.
● Unclear job expectations — lack of clarity about degree of one's authority or
what's expected from him.
● Dysfunctional workplace dynamics — working with an office bully, feeling
undermined by colleagues, a supervisor micromanaging one's work, etc.
● Work-life imbalance — work so overwhelming one’s life he doesn't have sufficient
time or energy to spend time with friends or family.
Having spotted symptoms of job burnout at your organization, and after considering
some of the most frequent underlying causes, you should now go about treating
What can be done to avoid job burnout?
Many practical approaches you can take to minimizing or eliminating job burnout
address its underlying causes directly. Some of the more obvious of these include:
● Providing clear job expectations and descriptions.
● Ensuring staff have resources and skills necessary to meet expectations.
● Setting reasonable workloads and enforcing reasonable work hours.
● Encouraging breaks, physical activity, and social support throughout the
Your overall aim should be to help employees understand their value to your
organization, making them see how their contributions advance its goals. Your
responsibility is then to see they have what they need to bring the most value possible
— which may include safeguarding their mental health.
Avoiding burnout at your workplace means evaluating the situation and taking practical
steps to resolve it. Your hope is to reduce work-related stress and increase engagement
while enhancing work enjoyment. If you succeed at this you will not only have taken
major steps toward resolving the job burnout issue. You will also have helped create a
work environment which fosters thriving at work — with beneficial effects on home life,
Greg Zlevor, president of Westwood International and founder of the Global Community
for Leadership Innovation, provides insights and experiences for leaders and high
potentials to help them become more valuable.
-- "Job burnout: How to spot it and take action" by Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic.
-- "Symptoms of Burnout: Employee Burnout Warning Signs" by Alan De Keyrel;
MED+ED, January 17, 2018.
-- "Burnout Response" in Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.