Burnout is a common term that is poorly understood. Burnout is one of the results of chronic occupational stress. It is a three-part syndrome:

  1. emotional exhaustion,
  2. depersonalisation,
  3. feelings of personal failure.

Emotional exhaustion is the foundation of burnout, every burnout victim experiences psychological fatigue. Depersonalisation indicates that a team member has become detached and emotionally distanced from their work, the organization and their team. Feelings of personal failure occur when a team member holds an unreasonably negative opinion of their competence.

Team members suffering from burnout have the greatest number of symptoms when compared with those who are simply exhausted or disengaged. When issues from the workplace begin to negatively affect the quality of a team member’s personal life then a negative feedback loop is created.


Burnout and Emotional Exhaustion

Burnout is linked to a wide range of counterproductive work behaviours, leading to increased sick absences. An intensely negative states that destroys motivation and increases leaving intention. When team members are emotionally exhausted  their performance suffers across-the-board. Creative thinking is shut down and the team becomes emotional and reactive.

In a study of 8,906 men and 6,382 women of working age were split into three groups:

  1. performance-based pay,
  2. time-based pay or,
  3. fixed salary.

Those working on a performance-based pay structure were working the longest hours; had the highest percentage of stressed workers; and the highest level of job control. Control over one’s workday is not a sufficient condition in job satisfaction.  Security is superordinate to autonomy.

Those on a time-based pay structure had the lowest control over their work although they did have the shortest hours. This group had the highest job insecurity, and the lowest potential for future career advancement. This combination produced the lowest job satisfaction score although not the highest stress score.

Team members on performance or time-based systems experienced higher burnout when they were compared to those given fixed, stable salaries. This effect held even after adjusting for age, education, marital status, workload and job characteristics.

A study of 4,309 twins and 1,008 siblings show us that the jobs people do as well as their baseline level of depressive anxiety are influenced by genetic as well as environmental factors. Even down to the type of job that a person chose as an adult we can see predictively valid genetic similarities.

Another  study looked at 6,118 people to see how burnout related to physical and mental health,  sleep quality, memory, and lifestyle. In the course of their investigation they discovered that individuals suffering from burnout and exhaustion were more likely to experience:

  • memory problems,
  • sleep problems,
  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • neck and back pain.



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