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Employee Burnout. Causes

Burnout is an occupational syndrome resulting from chronic stress at work that has not been successfully overcome. It is important to highlight relationship between burnout and professional activity: the causes of burnout are always rooted in certain work related issues. By definition, even the most adverse family and personal circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one, cannot lead to burnout.

HR managers from the USA have unanimously blamed burnout as a main reason for resignation of employees. According to a Kronos survey, half of all employees who left their companies came to this decision due to burnout.

It would be wrong to affirm that a burned out employee will leave the company sooner or later, because there are many factors such as family, home loan, situation at the labor market, etc. that can keep him from resignation. Nevertheless, if an employee has an opportunity to resign, they will most probably do it.

So what might lead to burnout? Burnout is principally associated with overload, both physical and emotional:

Excessive workload. Strict deadlines, inadequate resources, managers tending to overload the most talented employees with a lot of work will affect even the most resilient persons. It is impossible to work at one's limits for a long time. It is possible to mobilize resources in order to close the project or start a new one, but if the requirements are not reduced in a few weeks, stress becomes chronic and can lead to serious negative health effects.

Imbalance between work and private life. Stiff work schedule, round-the-clock communication with colleagues and manager, frequent episodes of work outside normal working hours cause annoyance or feeling of guilt. If the job is so demanding that an employee does not have enough energy and time for their family and friends, they can quickly "burn himself out at work". Outside-of-office conversations on topics that are not work-related are surely one of the best ways to combat burnout.

Lack both of control over the work process and empowerment to make decisions slows down progress and causes annoyance. Inability to influence important work aspects, in particular, poor time management habits of colleagues or manager, spontaneous teamwork without planning, as well as lack of ability to make independent routine decisions will lead to burnout sooner or later.

Lack of recognition. If a person does not feel that their work is meaningful and valued by the company, he becomes more and more cynical and less motivated to work efficiently.

Many employees who resigned voluntarily state that they were not even once praised by their manager over the last year.

Inappropriate manager, lack of support from manager, unclear goals and expectations, micromanagement. If an employee is not sure about expectations of his manager towards him, does not feel support, or quite the opposite, suffers from hypercontrol, then he will often find himself in stressful situations that can develop into chronic stress.

Unfair remuneration, from the employee's perspective. If an employee believes that he is giving the company much more than he is receiving in return, then latent dissatisfaction will gradually develop into burnout.

Uncomfortable and potentially harmful working environment, excessive noise, lack of light, inadequate temperature, etc. Working environment has an evident effect on concentration, productivity and quality performance. Long hours of work in a dark, cramp, noisy or dusty office can lead to health problems, exacerbations, stress and burnout.

Toxic working environment, disrespect, discrimination, bullying. Disrespect, bullying, discrimination and other factors that spoil working environment tend to trigger a strong emotional response of the employee concerned and contribute to burnout. Moreover, treating employees fairly often determines whether they start to burn out or not.

Lack of opportunities for career development is associated with cynicism and loss of engagement. Employees lose motivation to work if they know that their efforts will not be rewarded.

Monotonous or senseless work can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration and apathy. Work that seems senseless affects motivation and increases employee's cynicism which is one of the three components of burnout.

Research people found out an interesting fact, not all employees who experienced chronic stress ended up with burnout in the long run. Some employees were able to recover without any external help.

The key factor here was the sense of justice. If an employee believed that the company duly appreciated his efforts, he successfully coped with the stress. However, if an employee felt that he was treated unfairly, his condition always worsened.

It is noteworthy that justice is a totally subjective concept, and employees evaluate it in terms of feelings. An employee who tends to suspect that he is underpaid can in fact receive a salary adequate to his experience and position.