Do you feel overwhelmed by your job, that it feels too much like ‘hard work’ or just plainly ‘unexciting’? Do you find yourself waking up at night thinking about work? Do you dread that alarm going off in the morning and then dragging yourself out of bed to go to work?
And do you find the idea of the weekend, or an upcoming holiday, more and more appealing? If you have answered yes to these questions, keep in mind that you’re not alone. Feeling drained and totally used up with little desire to continue is what is commonly known as ‘Job Burnout’ and we all reach that point some times. Your skills and knowledge remain intact, but the motivation or will to perform has gone.
What is job burnout?
Burnout is “a disabling reaction to stress on the job”, and “an alienation from work that results in physical, psychological and emotional exhaustion”. Job Burnout is a sickness of the spirit. It is when motivation, that mystical energy that gets us going, is damaged or even destroyed. Another name for job burnout, could be ‘job depression’, and it doesn’t mean that it cannot be helped. Knowing what the causes or symptoms of job burnout, can perhaps help those who are suffering needlessly. When motivation is threatened or diminishes we tend to ‘burn out’.
Who does it affect?
The people who are hit the hardest with job burnout are usually those who are service providers. They can become very blas about their work with a ‘don’t care’ attitude, as well as being hostile and rude to those people who they have been hired to serve. Dealing with difficult, ignorant or unsympathetic customers on the telephone for eight hours a day is not an easy task.
Other possible casualties of job burn out are those professions that involve a ‘life or death of the company’ decision; managers, team leaders and others who work with people; working to almost impossible time schedules with work that is exacting, repetitive and detailed. Job burn out can affect everyone – any person, at any level and in any profession. How we react to situations in our job is always relative – no two people respond the same way to the same situation – but how we react and how we deal with it, is an individual thing and our choice to survive the burnout.
The symptoms of job burnout
Before looking at how we can prevent or assist job burnout, first we need to know what to look for. What are the basic symptoms? Occasional feelings of frustration, anger, depression and dissatisfaction are normal parts of living and working. These are things we often grumble about on a daily basis – it is part of the parcel of who we are! But those who have been affected by the burnout, experience these negative emotions in a more heightened and chronic state. They feel it all the time. Frustration can evolve into anger and tears; anger into fear; depression into despair.
Many of the symptoms are easy to spot. Burnout quickly erodes employees’ physical and mental health, often resulting in fatigue, irritability, crying, and anxiety attacks. Other noticeable symptoms are loss of appetite or weight gain due to lack of exercise or over-eating in reaction to stress. Subtler signs can include teeth grinding or increased drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, along with insomnia or nightmares, forgetfulness, low productivity, and an inability to concentrate. These symptoms are often accompanied by a declining performance, withdrawal, absenteeism, illness and an ‘I really don’t care’ or a ‘why bother anyway’ attitude.
What causes job burnout?
We have looked at what Job Burnout is, what the symptoms are and who are the most affected but we also need to know what causes this to happen? It all comes down to understanding that essence called ‘motivation’ – what sustains our motivation? There are certain ‘energisers’ that we need to see or hear that will encourage and maintain our motivation level, so that in turn we are productive, happy and well-adjusted employees. High on the list are reward for good work and that wonderful feeling that you can control things that influence you. Once those two factors are threatened, then the burnout begins.
Reward for good work could be – praise, feelings of satisfaction, high self-esteem, pay increase, bonuses, promotions, fame or status in the company, credibility, challenge, and anything else that is positive to you. Feeling that you can control things that influence you – Believing that you can’t control what happens to you and feeling helpless is one of the most threatening human experiences. If there is a time that you believe the world around you is out of control, then the trouble begins.
Overcoming job burnout
Ask yourself some of the following questions – Do you enjoy the kind of work you’re doing? Do you receive sufficient recognition or compensation? Do you agree with your organisation’s goals? Then decide what action you should take. If you lack the skills for your particular job, for example, you might consider asking for additional training. If you’re too busy, enhancing your time management skills might be helpful.
First and foremost, you need to clarify in your mind, what others can do to improve your situation – i.e. let your boss know why a clearer job description, increased responsibility or change in responsibility or increased recognition, would enhance your performance and make you a better employee!
Build the immune system
Learn to relax – Allow the body time to rest, rebuild and get ready for the next round. Turn to your family and friends you trust, to help protect you against the negative effects of stress. People with strong social support systems tend to be healthier, more focused, better prepared and they live longer!
Develop your skills – When you know how to acquire the skills you need, you’ll have confidence to tackle new challenges and handle the unexpected. If you need training, for example, enrol in a class that can be beneficial. Keep in mind that if you can’t change external circumstances, you can change your attitude. That might mean lowering your expectations or, in an extreme situation, changing jobs. Regardless of the change you make, consider all the consequences before you make them.
As a last resort – Change Jobs
Sometimes, while we do not wish to face this, the best solution may be to change jobs. Unless the casualty is aware of the situation, they may quit one job and take on another. However, beginning a new job without understanding the problem with the first job can be disastrous – the cycle will continue with the new job where the old one ended! Know what you need in a job and then go out and get it!
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