If you’re experiencing a decrease in energy, motivation, and commitment because your expectations of achievement are unmet despite devotion to a cause or way of life, then you may be in burnout. Here’s three ways to tell: you are 1) chronically exhausted, and/or 2) cynical and detached from your work, and/or 3) increasingly ineffective on the job. The emotions that we experience in our work cannot be dismissed nor simply left at the office. Instead, workplace emotions affect both our mental and physical health as well as our attitude toward the satisfaction of our work. Ultimately, for work to be satisfying there must be emotional agreement between the response that we think is demanded by the workplace and the way we would naturally respond; without it we labor and exhaust emotionally.
This can be particularly true when our personality tends to perfection, idealism, fear, or shame. The result can be a fear of not pleasing another or not living up to expectations, concern with making amends or how to hide failure and the inability to distinguish ourselves from our role. All predispose us to burnout.
Causes Of Burnout
Burnout tends to be a symptom and not caused by any one thing. Rather, its origins are in underlying areas. Here’s an example: Because your job expects a certain action you do it. However, you say and do what isn’t genuine to you but what you think is demanded. Justifying your actions, as “that’s what I have to do,” will work for only so long as the emotional dissonance becomes exhaustion that leaves us fatigued and unenthusiastic.
While burnout is a symptom it is expressed in real situations. Four where we experience the dimensions of our work-self are:
- What is expected of us, how well we perform to those expectations, and how we adopt to boundary spanning tasks (boundary spanning tasks are those that demand our attention but may or may not be in the core of our competency)
- The development of our career and resulting satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our place and progress
- Support of our work - our skills and aptitudes - and its recognition by those in authority
- The intrusion into our home life by work.
As we experience these the mismatches between the job and ourselves become clear and may lead to the feelings of burnout. Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter said that taken together the factors of our personality and those of our situation make burnout "the dislocation between what people are and what they have to do." I think they’re correct.
Score Your Burnout Potential
To learn how you might be doing, download and take the free, short Institute for Positive Psychology Stress and Burnout Questionnaire. You may find it helpful. Talking with a coach could help too. You can contact me here.