And each has a matching coping strategy
Burnout, an occupational syndrome according to the WHO, has traditionally been described as a rather uniform disorder with typical signs being exhaustion, cynicism and professional inefficacy. However, it is possible to distinguish three types of burnout, closely linked to each of these signs. Each of the types has associated coping strategies.
- Overload burnout. Linked to exhaustion, overload burnout is driven by the ambition to work harder to achieve success, frequently at a cost of personal life and even health. It is typical for highly dedicated employees, who prefer to cope with stress by venting of emotions, the strategy that in the long term may lead to emotional exhaustion and depression. This burnout type would need to work on emotional regulation and psychological flexibility, and may find Acceptance and Commitment Therapy beneficial.
- Lack of development or under-challenge burnout. As the name suggests, this type of burnout is caused by the lack of opportunities for personal or professional growth, and is associated with cynicism and intermediate dedication to work. The typical coping strategies for this type are cognitive avoidance, venting of emotions and disengagement. As the last two strategies are present in overload and neglect respectively, the lack of development seems to be in the middle position.
- Neglect burnout. Neglect burnout is a feeling of being helpless or inadequate that usually appears as a reaction to workplace challenges. It is strongly associated with inefficacy, that may be explained by the disengagement coping strategy. This burnout type may require behavioural activation and elimination of negative perceptions, related to burnout.
In general, a progressive decrease in engagement is a mere coping mechanism that employees adopt to address stress and it may explain the differences between the subtypes from a longitudinal perspective. For the best results, treatment interventions should be adjusted for the type of burnout and the degree of dedication at work.