Lately employers have come to understand that labor protection isn’t only about the absence of risks at the workplace and the ergonomics of the work space but also about the mental state of employees. More often people refer to the term “emotional burnout syndrome” describing their exhaustion from work, but few really understand what it means. Here is what this syndrome is, what provokes it, and how to avoid developing it.
What Emotional Burnout Syndrome Is
According to the definition of the World Health Organization, emotional burnout syndrome is a condition that occurs as a result of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully overcome. It’s also caused and accompanied by a large emotional load.
Initially, this phenomenon was attributed only to workers of communicative spheres: doctors, firemen, policemen, teachers. Over time, studies have confirmed that those whose activities are not associated with frequent communication – programmers, athletes, engineers and many others – are also at risk. Burnout has turned from a so-called “sympathy fee” into a widespread problem.
Factors Influencing the Development of Emotional Burnout Syndrome
So what influences the emergence and development of burnout? Let’s highlight some of the factors that can lead to the development of burnout:
- Lack of opportunities for personal career growth. Loss of involvement, low efficiency, and a drop of performance indicators are characteristic.
- Unfavorable work environment. Toxic attitude of colleagues, disrespect and other manifestations of unkindness at work.
- Lack of professional recognition. Impairment of employees’ work, lack of recognition of the importance of the work performed has one of the highest percentages in studies of the reasons for resignation at one’s own request.
- Substitution of personal life for work and noncompliance with work-hour regulations. The imbalance between professional and personal life is a direct path to burnout. In Asian countries, for example, because of the work mentality and unspoken social rules, there is a high percentage of overwork, which leads to death on the job.
- Monotonous or meaningless work. The inability to switch between tasks and the lack of understanding of the purpose of the job contribute to cynicism and the reduction of professional achievements.
- High responsibility for unobvious results. Not just performers, but creators have a very high degree of uncertainty in their work and a high level of decision-making responsibility, which provokes permanent stress.
- Uncertainty. Not understanding one’s clear tasks masstamilan, deadlines, and expectations for results greatly undermines an employee’s emotional well-being.
- Uncomfortable or dangerous working conditions.
- Uncomfortable working conditions negatively affect employee productivity – for example, in a dark or noisy room it is harder to concentrate and easier to become stressed.
- Psychological profile of an employee. The risk group includes workaholics and careerists, who are loaded with dedication to their profession and do not allow themselves to relax too much.
12 Phases of Syndrome Development
American psychiatrist Herbert Freudenberger together with his colleague Gale North distinguished 12 phases of burnout, the symptoms of which should be paid attention to.
Phase 1. Self-affirmation
As a rule, a burnout starts with a feeling of unappreciation of your work and yourself by your superiors, colleagues, clients/patients. The person understands that he needs to assert himself by working harder.
Phase 2. Working Harder
The person begins to work harder and use more resources to try to compensate for his or her feelings of unappreciation. Even during breaks, this person keeps working instead of betting at 20Bet or going to a gym.
Phase 3. Neglecting Needs
Problems with sleep, nutrition and other needs, including social interaction, arise as a consequence of increased stress, including delays at work and decreased socialization with family and friends.
Phase 4. Disregard for Conflict
After some time, the environment begins to notice that something is wrong with the person, tells him/her about it, but he/she is not susceptible to comments from others at the early stages of burnout and avoids conflicts on this basis.
Phase 5. Revision of Values
More distancing from the environment occurs, work takes up weekends and evenings, and former values like spending time with friends or pursuing hobbies are erased.
Phase 6. Denial of the Problems That Arise
You find it harder to communicate with people, and you start to feel sorry for yourself, cynical and aggressive.
Phase 7. Disassociation
Social contacts are minimized, and all his free time is filled with work. Behavioral deviations appear, and health problems clearly manifest themselves.
Phase 8. A Distinct Change in Behavior
The person stops being the same, which becomes obvious to everyone around him or her, not just the people closest to him or her.
Phase 9. Depersonalization
This condition appears as loss of the ability to feel anything, and everything around appears as a dim gray image, while some forms of depersonalization may result in the loss or splitting (dissociation) of one’s personality.
Phase 10. Inner Emptiness
At this stage, mechanisms of compensation for the emptiness are activated – alcohol abuse, shopomania, gorging on stress or the opposite – starvation. Of the most socially acceptable ways to deaden stress, there is a path to searching for the extreme in the corresponding kinds of sports and leisure activities, retreating into virtual reality or withdrawing into work itself.
Phase 11. Depression
After unsuccessful attempts to fill the internal emptiness, there comes a phase of clinical depression. The meaning of existence is lost, there is no consolation or reason for optimism.
Phase 12. Burnout Syndrome
It is accompanied by suicidal thoughts, mental and physical health problems. There appears an urgent necessity for medical help.
How to Recognize a Burnout
For a long time, the MBI method (Maslach Burnout Inventory) has been used in the international environment to diagnose a burnout. It includes 22 statements about feelings and experiences connected with work, and for each of them 6 gradations of estimation are offered – from “never” (0 points) to “every day” (6 points). The final sum of points determines the interviewee’s condition: depersonalization, reduction in professionalism, or professional exhaustion.
You can find out about the appearance of burnout in employees from HR analysis: a high staff turnover and a decrease in the efficiency of one department and the company as a whole will tell you about it. Regular surveys to find out the signs of burnout in employees will also be an effective method.
Levels of prevention can be divided into personal and organizational.
At the personal level, each employee, depending on his or her own degree of awareness, can take a number of preventive measures to avoid the appearance of the syndrome:
- Establish a work-life balance. The body needs regular rest and interests beyond work to remain healthy, both physically and mentally.
- Introducing regular physical activity. Exercise and exercise give an outlet for emotions, especially negative ones, and accumulated stress.
- Sleep regimen. Sleep is affected by the hormone melatonin, and its production is affected by light; thus, the blue glow of screens disrupts its functioning and leads to sleep disorders.
- Organize your work. It is important to plan your schedule so that the work is evenly distributed, rather than being in constant stress from deadline to deadline.
- Switching between activities. Monotonous routine work is not good for the psycho-emotional state; you should try to make variety in the work tasks.
- Asking for help in time. Probably, the most difficult step is to realize and accept the problem in order to turn to a specialist in time. If a burnout develops, a complex treatment is necessary.
Burnout prevention should also be done on the organizational level:
- Clearly set goals and objectives for employees. Planning eliminates or minimizes uncertainty, and as we have already found out, uncertainty is one of the risk factors of burnout development.
- Motivation. Increase the level of motivation through a system of rewards, employee training, inclusion of specialists in parallel areas, praise or attention to the achievements of specific employees.
- Provide stress management training. There are many techniques for self-regulation: managing emotions, anxiety, and stress in general. If you teach your employees how to cope with stress, it will significantly reduce the probability of burnout development.