I’m burned out. I’m exhausted, disillusioned, irritable, and depressed- all symptoms of job burnout. Here I am, writing a blog about work-life balance and my life is out of balance. How did I get here? How do I get out?
What I’ve learned from my experience with job burnout was surprising to me. I was doing all the right things to avoid job burnout. I rarely work more than 40 hours per week, I get 7-8 hours sleep every night, I take breaks, I do yoga, I go for walks every day, I practice mindfulness, I’m generally happy. Again I ask, how did I get here?
Burnout isn’t just the result of working too much. My job burnout was influenced by several factors including lack of support, lack of appreciation, mismatch with organizational values, and poor job fit.
I was in such an extreme state of chronic exhaustion I became concerned about my health, but checked out fine medically.
I found an online burnout self-test from Mind Tools and scored 66 out of 75, achieving the test result: You may be at very severe risk of burnout – do something about this urgently. “No kidding,” I thought to myself.
Despite doing all the right things to take care of myself, asking for support, and maintaining a positive attitude I couldn’t mitigate the burnout. And, let’s be honest, I wasn’t doing my best work in this situation despite working harder and harder.
Ultimately my only option to reclaim work-life balance was to resign my position, and that’s what I did.
Through this experience I learned there are many causes of burnout- some obvious and others that are less obvious. While I needed to change my situation to find relief, my efforts to manage stress did help minimize the long term effects of burnout. I was better positioned to evaluate my options and promptly make the right choices for my health and well-being.
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Causes of Job Burnout
Lack of control
While there are many factors you can’t control in your job and in life, being unable to control, or at least influence, details of your day-to-day activities is frustrating and becomes increasingly stressful over time.
Lack of support
To succeed in your work you need basic resources such as training and functioning office equipment to do your job. You also need information about management and organizational goals, policies, and direction. Without support you are unable to be effective in your work and you may suffer burnout.
Lack of appreciation
Receiving a paycheck is effective motivation but most employees need more than monetary rewards to stay motivated- you need positive, encouraging, and thoughtful feedback.
Work values mismatch
Everyone has work values, such as helping society, making money, having the opportunity to express creativity, having flexible work hours, or having a set schedule. When your personal work values are a mismatch with the organization culture you feel dissatisfied and this mismatch can lead to burnout.
Lack of stress management
We all experience a reasonable amount of stress that can be managed through tools such as communication, self-care, and setting boundaries. If you lack the skills to manage stress, you’re likely to get burned out at work.
External pressure and stress
Managers have a significant influence on the work experience of their employees. Some examples of managers that apply significant external pressure and stress are bosses that micro-manage, are overly demanding, or bosses that are demeaning.
If your boss has unreasonable expectations or is unclear about his expectations it will cause stress. You may also have unrealistic expectations of yourself, your boss, and your organization. Unreasonable expectations may lead to burnout.
Poor job fit
Job satisfaction is significantly influenced by our day-to-day activities as much as factors like our organizational culture and management style. A good job fit is found when your daily work activities match your skills and interests.
How to Avoid Job Burnout
Do your best and forget the rest
Do your part to do a good job and let go of the aspects you can’t control. When you obsess over factors out of your control you create stress in your life. When you focus on the things you can control you’re more likely to experience personal and professional satisfaction.
Ask for what you need
You may think your boss knows what training or equipment you need to do your job effectively, and surely effective managers possess this information. It’s possible, however, your boss may lack the training he or she needs to be an effective manager. Ask for what you need and you’re more likely to get it than if you keep it to yourself and seethe quietly in resentment.
Handle feedback professionally
If you’re not getting the feedback you need, ask for it! If you are getting feedback and it’s all negative, look for ways to understand the feedback, use it to your advantage, and make improvements. If you continue to receive only negative feedback, it may be time to move on.
Find ways to manage your stress such as setting boundaries, taking breaks, getting a good night’s sleep every night, saying no, and recharging your batteries.
Improve work-life balance
Work-life balance isn’t just about the quantity of time you spend at work versus home, it’s about the quality of your time. Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t.
Pursue other opportunities
When your job isn’t a good fit, or your work values don’t match that of your organization, you may need to pursue opportunities in another department, or another organization.
Job burnout is a serious condition that can lead to health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, obesity, heart disease, and more. If you’re at risk for burnout, reassess your situation and take whatever steps are necessary to take care of you!
I love your comments! Have you experienced burnout at work? How did you handle it?