We can all ‘take on too much’ at times and feel overwhelmed for a while. These overpowering feelings are usually temporary. It is called burnout only when the emotional exhaustion and energy depletion persist over time and are connected to people-related stress in the workplace. Burnout refers to the persistent chronic interpersonal stressors in the workplace and has three characteristic responses: a.) exhaustion – feeling worn out, loss of energy, depletion, debilitation, and fatigue; b.) cynicism - negative or inappropriate attitudes towards others, irritability, loss of idealism, and withdrawal; and c.) inefficacy - reduced sense of personal accomplishment, reduced productivity or capability, low morale, and an inability to cope.
Burnout results from an individual’s personal evaluation of their working environment and has negative social, emotional, and physical impacts on the person. When people feel burned-out’ - emotionally exhausted in the workplace, they often experience psychological and physical consequences. The challenges of burnout can, and need to be, managed.
Job dissatisfaction, lower employee retention and reduced productivity are associated with burnout. Many corporate leaders are realizing that when people perceive their work as meaningful, they tend to have lower levels of emotional exhaustion and some leaders are increasing their emphasis on the individual’s contribution to their organization’s goals. Many organizations are taking steps to shape their culture and communication processes to promote stakeholder well-being.
Though burnout and depression have similarities, most professionals view them as quite different because burnout is work-related, interpersonal and situation specific, and depression is context free and does not need to result from interpersonal stressors. When individuals are not able to achieve greater emotional stability and manage their burnout on their own, many find working with psychologists or psychologist- coaches helpful.