Job Burnout (Part 1) – Let’s talk about job burnout

Job burnout? Yes job burnout. This is what I call “stress on a different level”. Researchers like Maslach, define burnout as a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job. There are 3 dimensions of burnout – overwhelming exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. I will discuss these 3 factors and what they mean through a case study for easy understanding. Meet my case study – Caroline.

Caroline is a single mother who works as a nurse. Caroline is highly underpaid. She works from 8am to 8pm Monday through Sunday but gets Tuesdays off mostly because that’s their least busy day. Tuesday is the “no surgery” day at the hospital. She is a practising Christian and likes to attend Church service every Sunday and Bible study every Wednesday. Caroline has asked several times for her day off to be Wednesdays so she can attend Bible study seeing as she isn’t able to attend church on Sundays. Her employers continue to refuse her request saying “don’t forget you have a duty to care for the sick. We need you Caroline”. Caroline constantly feels tired, she complains she doesn’t get enough sleep as she has to wake up 5am every morning to get her son ready for school. Being a single mother and a “double full time” employee, Caroline now struggles to balance her home and work life and duties.

Overwhelming exhaustion: Caroline feels overwhelmed by her work and life situation. Caroline feels used, undervalued and has a lot of resentment towards her job and employers. Caroline confessed that this has now impacted negatively on her ability to provide good service to her patients – she does her job, tries to meet the demands of patients but she only manages to get it or anything else done. She hates her job. I diagnose Caroline as extremely exhausted.
Ovewhelming exhaustion is the most widely reported and most obvious manifestation of burnout. One could say he/she is exhausted when they feel overextended and depleted of their emotional and physical resources. Exhaustion is not just something one experiences but rather makes one distant from work possibly as a way of coping with work overload.

Depersonalisation: refers to negative, callous or excessively detached response to various aspects of the job. Imagine how Caroline feels. It is easy to say Caroline feels depersonalised. She feels detached from the caring aspects of her job. The service she provides is no longer one she does with joy. She only does it to get income. She has now unconsciously and unintentionally created a distance between her and her job. Call her selfish but Caroline has gone past caring.

Personal accomplishment: Given all you now know about Caroline, won’t it be natural to assume she now has a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. She detaches herself from certain aspects of her job and is constantly fatigued and clearly states she hates her job. So yes, in the bottom of her heart she knows she is ineffective. What has she really accomplished except back pain, headaches, fatigue and resentment towards work.

Job burnout is not something to be joked with. Who do you think is to blame for job burnout in Caroline’s situation? Caroline or her employers? Do you feel like you are another Caroline? Well you don’t have to be. Watch out for my next article on the effects of job burnout on individuals and the company and how to prevent it.