Are You Feeling Burnt Out?

This past week I attended a seminar given by the Institute of Coaching entitled Buffering Against Burnout.  The presenter was Jacinta M. Jiménez, PsyD, BCC, an award-winning leadership coach whose book The Burnout Fix will be available in March. 

Burnout is a subject I am extremely interested in since many of my clients come to me because they feel they are becoming burnt out. 

Recently WHO (World Health Organization) defined burnout this way: “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

WHO describes burnout as a reason to seek health services but not an illness itself.

Dr. Jimenez said the symptoms of burnout can be excessive fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure, vulnerability to illness, mood disorders, increased accidents and mistakes, decreased productivity, and overall loss of vitality. 

She also said that if an employee is under prolonged stress then it becomes increasingly difficult to deal with problems on the job.  That itself increases the stress and so the person has even more difficulty on the job. Because it keeps getting worse, it is difficult to dig yourself out of this on the job.

Often an organization and the person themself will blame poor coping strategies on the part of the person themself for burnout.  In fact, it isn’t just the person’s fault but may be the organizational environment, team culture and/or individual choices that cause burnout.

Jimenez lists six mismatches that can lead to burnout:

  • Values – Individual can’t align with company’s values.  This can happen any time.  Even if you been at the company a while, a new boss or owner comes in and the values change.  I worked briefly for the telephone company which was a monopoly in 1982 at divestiture.  The company became AT&T Information System in 1983, a competitive independent company.  As a monopoly it encouraged putting family first and supporting youth athletics was encouraged.  Imagine my shock and surprise when as AT&T Information Systems held mandatory meetings after hours and did not allow anyone to leave for any reason including someone who managed a Little League Baseball team.
  • Fairness – Bias on the part of company or team members.  One example of this kind of fairness issue when employees believe that women are not as available to do the work as men. Because of this bias women don’t get the opportunities men do. My clients complain that all the good accounts go to the men.
  • Workload – Employee is given the work and a deadline but not the resources necessary to do a good job. Sometimes employees are asked to work at a pace that makes them less accurate and not proud of the product they deliver.
  • Reward – Employee works hard and gets the job done but is never acknowledged for the work. I’ve coached clients who are constantly overlooked for promotion even though they have produced good work.
  • Community – Employee feels lonely because workers are unfriendly and stay in their own offices or because they are working alone.  There has been an increase in burnout after the start of the pandemic. Many believe it is because of loneliness.
  • Control – You have no say in what happens and you can’t predict what will happen.  You are not given the resources you need to make what you want happen.

The first step in buffering against burnout is to recognize it.  Sometimes we get so busy working we don’t have time to think about ourselves.  Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I exhausted all the time? 
  • Do I wake up tired in the morning? 
  • Am I less engaged in my job than I used to be? 
  • Am I cynical about the work and the company? 
  • Has my productivity dropped? 
  • Do I feel incompetent?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, go back to the mismatches to see what is affecting you and try to find something to do about it. It is worth reviewing the mismatches periodically just to see if there is an action you might take to help you to avoid burnout.  We aren’t always aware of the day-to-day changes in our work.

If you need help in identifying what is making you feel burnout, a coach can help.  Sometimes a person feels like something is wrong with their job but has trouble identifying exactly what is wrong, a coach can help you to identify where the problem is and help you see your options.  I’d love to be your coach.  Call or email for an initial no fee consultation.  My email is asparker@asparker.com and my telephone number is 781-598-0388.

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