An Overview of Burnout

This is part of a series publishing portions of a research paper on How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout.

 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Appendix A: An overview of burnout from Preventive Stress Management in Organizations:

            Burnout, a concept dating to the late 1970s (Maslach, 1978), is a chronic pattern of negative affective responses that can result in reduced job satisfaction, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, or increased turnover (Peters, Youngblood, & Greer, 1997).  “A paradox exists: the most valuable and successful professionals are those who, for that very reason, run the largest risk of burning out.”Burnout tends to occur in individuals in professions characterized by a high degree of personal investment in work, high-performance expectations, and emotionally demanding interpersonal situations (Maslach, 1982; Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Burnout is most frequently described as found among members of the helping professions, including doctors, nurses, therapists of various disciplines, police officers, teachers, and social workers (Burke & Richardsen, 1996).

Individuals with a strong commitment to work often derive much of their self-image and sense of worth from their occupation. This limits the amount of investment in recreational and family activities. When difficulties arise at work or there are limited rewards for increasing labor, burnout-prone individuals begin to invest even more time at work and further neglect outside supports.

 The 3 phases of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, reduced personal accomplishment

Maslach (1982) described burnout as a process that typically proceeds through three phases: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion reflects a depletion of emotional resources and inability to give psychologically. Depersonalization, probably a coping mechanism, includes negative, cynical attitudes about the recipients of one’s services. Finally, reduced personal accomplishment refers to decreased job satisfaction and a reduced sense of competence.

Burke and Richardsen (1996) noted that burnout is a process and that it is possible to intervene at any of several points in the process to reduce burnout and its adverse consequences. (Quick, et al., 1997, pp. 71)

 Early intervention can prevent burnout. Watch for these signs: anxiety, rigidity, poor listening skills, lack of empathy, impatience, and being critical.


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