Occupational burnout

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This article is about short-term burnout. For long-term loss of focus (over many years), see burnout (psychology).

Occupational burnout or job burnout is characterized by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feeling 'drained',[1] and also may have the dimension of frustration and/or negative emotions and cynical behaviour,[1][2] and as a result reduced professional efficacy within the workplace.[3]

More accurately defined, "Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress",[4] thus in the emotional plan exhaustion refers to the depletion or draining of emotional resources, from which cynicism stem and cynicism refers to the indifference or distant attitude of work, and reduced professional efficacy refers to the lack of satisfaction with past/present expectations.[5]

Occupational burnout is typically and particularly found within human service professions. Such jobs that naturally experience high levels of occupational burnout include: social workers, nurses, teachers, lawyers, engineers, physicians, customer service representatives, and police officers.[6] One reason why burnout is so prevalent within the human services field is due in part, to the high stress work environment and emotional demands that might be independent of the effort exerted by the individual.

The individuals who are most vulnerable to occupational burnout are ones who are strongly motivated, dedicated, and involved in the work in which they partake.[7] As work for these individuals is the source of importance in which they derive meaning in life, it is significant that they find meaning by achieving their goals and expectations. At the same time occupational burnout is a type of stress condition and as such results in concentration problems or decreased problem solving abilities.[8] Thus the desire to achieve these high goals and expectations may collide with physical, emotional and mental exhaustion resulting from an inability to achieve them, which can lead to a type of burnout that may involve even a reflection on the failure to find meaning and growth in life.[7]

Usually occupational burnout is associated with increased work experience, increased workload, but also absences and time missed from work, it shows up as an impaired empathy and cynical attitudes toward clientele and/or colleagues, and thoughts of quitting.[9]

Occupational burnout affects also social relationships and attitudes making interactions at home and at work difficult either because of the social withdrawal of the burned-out person or of making him more prone to conflict.[1] Withdrawing is a type of defense mechanism but in fact this has a negative effect because of the importance of social interactions for one's well being.[1] Burnout problems may lead to general health problems because of the stress becoming chronic, symptoms like headaches, colds, insomnia may appear together with overall tiredness.[1] At this point the person may attempt self-medication like drinking alcohol, smoking, taking sleep pills, stimulants like coffee, mood elevators, etc. which may pose a further risk for his health.[1] However burnout itself is not an ailment and is not recognized as a neurosis.[1]

Causes[edit]

Among the causes of occupational burnout are:[1]

  • critical boss
  • perfectionism
  • lack of recognition
  • inadequate pay
  • under-employment
  • tasks with no end
  • impossible tasks / nearly impossible problems for solving
  • difficult clients (e.g. for social workers)
  • incompatible demands (many demands that may not be achieved together)
  • bureaucracy

also

  • conflicting roles (home, family)
  • value conflicts (personal / workplace values)
  • meaninglessness of achieved goals (the success type of burnout)
  • social and emotional skills deficit

Prevention[edit]

For the purpose of preventing occupational burnout, various stress management interventions have been shown to help improve employee health and wellbeing in the workplace and lower stress levels. Training employees in ways to manage stress in the workplace have also proven effective in prevention of burnout.[10] One study suggest that social-cognitive processes such as commitment to work, self-efficacy, learned resourcefulness and hope may insulate individuals from experiencing occupational burnout.[11] Increased job control is another intervention shown to help counteract exhaustion and cynicism in the workplace.[12]

Burnout prevention programs have traditionally focused on cognitive-behavior, cognitive restructuring, didactic stress management, and relaxation.[7] These types of prevention programs rely upon reducing the exhaustion component of occupational burnout. However, recent research indicates that, at the individual level, cognitive-behavioral strategies have the best potential for success.[13] It is more complicated at the organizational level where reducing or removing job stressors have been shown to decrease burnout.[14] Burnout experts believe that in order to reduce occupational burnout, a strategy of combining both organizational and individual level activities may be the most beneficial approach to reduce the three main symptoms. Improving upon job-person fit by focusing attention on the relationship between the person and the job situation appears to be a promising way to deal with burnout.[15]

In order to quell occupational burnout, it is important to reduce or remove the negative aspects of the three main components that make up occupational burnout. However, it is difficult to treat all three components as the three burnout symptoms react to the same preventive or treatment activities in different ways.[16] Exhaustion is more easily treated than cynicism and professional efficacy, which tend to be more resistant to treatment. Research shows that intervention actually may worsen the professional efficacy of one who originally had low professional efficacy.[17]

Employee rehabilitation is defined as a tertiary preventive intervention which means the strategies used in rehabilitation are meant to alleviate, as well as prevent, burnout symptoms.[16] Such rehabilitation of the working population includes multidisciplinary activities with the intent of maintaining and improving employees' working ability and ensuring a supply of skilled and capable labor in society.

Responder apathy syndrome[edit]

Responder apathy syndrome (RAS) is a controversial psychological diagnosis connected to occupational burnout that is not recognized by most physicians or psychologists.[18] Originally developed to explain the apathy seen in paramedics[19] and firefighters toward those calling for their help, the definition has generally been expanded to include nurses, respiratory therapists and other health care workers involved in direct patient care. Generally diagnosticians term the symptoms as generalized burnout[20] and ignore the occupation specific burnout termed RAS.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Beverly A. Potter, Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work, Ronin Publishing, 2005
  2. ^ Roche, Maree and Haar, Jarrod (2011) and job burnout: A study of New Zealand managers. In: Community, Work and Family IV International Conference, 19–21 May 2011, Tampere, Finland
  3. ^ Maslach, C., Jackson, S., & Leiter, M. (1996). Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologist Press.
  4. ^ Preventing Burnout. Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Coping Strategies
  5. ^ van Dierendonck, D., Garssen, B., & Visser, A. (2005, February). Burnout Prevention Through Personal Growth. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(1), 62-77.
  6. ^ Jackson, S., Schwab, R., & Schuler, R. (1986, November). Toward an understanding of the burnout phenomenon. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71(4), 630-640.
  7. ^ a b c van Dierendonck, D., Garssen, B., & Visser, A. (2005, February). Burnout Prevention Through Personal Growth. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(1), 62-77.
  8. ^ Schmidt Anton J. M., "Does 'mental kinesiophobia' exist?" in Behaviour research and therapy, 2003, vol. 41, no10, pp. 1243-1249
  9. ^ Elliott, T., Shewchuk, R., Hagglund, K., Rybarczyk, B., & Harkins, S. (1996, December). Occupational burnout, tolerance for stress, and coping among nurses in rehabilitation units. Rehabilitation Psychology, 41(4), 267-284.
  10. ^ William D. McLaurine, A correlational study of job burnout and organizational commitment among correctional officers, Capella University. School of Psychology, pp. 92
  11. ^ Elliott, T., Shewchuk, R., Hagglund, K., Rybarczyk, B., & Harkins, S. (1996, December). Occupational burnout, tolerance for stress, and coping among nurses in rehabilitation units. Rehabilitation Psychology, 41(4), 267-284.
  12. ^ Hatinen, M., Kinnunen, U., Pekkonen, M., and Kalimo, R. (2007). Comparing two burnout interventions: Perceived job control mediates decreases in burnout. International Journal of Stress Management. 14(3), 227-248
  13. ^ Schaufeli, W. B., & Enzmann, D. (1998). The burnout companion to study and practice: A critical analysis. London: Taylor & Francis.
  14. ^ Hätinen, M., Kinnunen, U., Pekkonen, M., & Kalimo, R. (2007, August). Comparing two burnout interventions: Perceived job control mediates decreases in burnout. International Journal of Stress Management, 14(3), 227-248.
  15. ^ Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.
  16. ^ a b Hätinen, M., Kinnunen, U., Pekkonen, M., & Kalimo, R. (2007, August). Comparing two burnout interventions: Perceived job control mediates decreases in burnout. International Journal of Stress Management, 14(3), 227-248.
  17. ^ van Dierendonck, D., Schaufeli, W. B., & Buunk, B. P. (1998). The evaluation of an individual burnout intervention program: The role of inequity and social support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 392–407.
  18. ^ 4Responder Apathy Syndrome. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  19. ^ Rubin M (2011). "Get a clue: It can be all too easy to make assessment errors in the field; here's some tips to prevent you from making mistakes.". EMS World 40 (9): 57–64. PMID 21961428. 
  20. ^ Dickinson T, Wright KM (2008). "Stress and burnout in forensic mental health nursing: a literature review.". Br J Nurs 17 (2): 82–7. PMID 18414278. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooper, C. L., & Cartwright, S. (1997). An intervention strategy for workplace stress. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 43, 7–16.
  • Clanton, L. D., Rude, S., & Taylor, C. (1992). Learned resourcefulness as a moderator of burnout in a sample of rehabilitation providers. Rehabilitation Psychology, 37, 131–140.