Employees who are unsatisfied with their jobs are problems waiting to happen. We know that employees who report that they are unsatisfied with their jobs use more sick time (both legitimate and illegitimate), report more job stress, have lower productivity and are more prone to depression than satisfied employees. They may also work against the organization’s goals. How is this related to burnout? Getting little satisfaction from work is a factor in burnout. Burnout can therefore be a very costly problem for supervisors, employees and the organization.
We’re all familiar with the term burnout. But what is it? Burnout is a reaction to the work environment that leads someone to feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, completely boxed in and taken for granted.
It is often the result of:
• A loss of individual autonomy
• A loss of respect or trust in one’s professional role
• The lack of timely feedback from supervisors or the organization. This is especially true for positive feedback.
• Unrealistic expectations from consumers of the service being provided or supervisors
• Having been poorly trained for the position in which one is working
And those were just a few of the situations that can lead to burnout!
Becoming burned out isn’t like flipping a light switch. It is a gradual process to which no one is immune. If we’re going to prevent burnout, it’s important to be able to recognize it so we can respond quickly.
Here are some of the telltale signs of burnout:
• Complaining the work is no longer fun
• Laughter is no longer a part of the work environment
• Overreaction to minor hassles
• Work seems like a chore
• Increased irritability toward consumers and/or co-workers
• Feeling empty and lethargic doing the work
• Feeling or complaining about being overwhelmed with the work
Recognizing burnout is only the first step. Supervisors and employees need to take active steps toward addressing the problem. The supervisor/supervisee relationship is circular. What affects one will affect the other, for better or for worse!
Solutions are limited only by our creativity and the policies and procedures of our organization. Here are a few ideas for addressing burnout:
• Give employees frequent feedback regarding their work product. Remember, timing is very important. Sooner rather than later is the rule.
• Give yourself a pep talk. Recognize how important your work is to those who rely on it even when they do not recognize it.
• Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Employees need to make this a priority. Supervisors need to creatively support good health and wellness.
• Think positively. It’s easy to focus on the negative and to create a mental audio tape that constantly replays negative messages. Thinking negatively will make you feel negative. Replace the tape.
• Change the work environment if possible. Creativity is key. As small as it might seem, the addition of a plant (a real one) can make a difference.
• Staff the job appropriately. The old “doing more with less” is a surefire way to burn out employees.
• Learn to say “no.” Everyone has an endurance limit.
• Be patient! Change doesn’t happen overnight. Individual or organizational change takes time. Expect resistance, but don’t give up!
Supervisors and employees working together to diminish burnout is great. Working together to prevent burnout is even better. So what are you going to do today to prevent burnout?
If you would like help with identifying how to better prevent or cope with burnout or any other stressful situation, contact Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 for a free and confidential consultation.