It is in the early 1970’s that the term job burnout was first coined. It is particularly relevant nowadays, since it is considered as the occupational illness of the twenty first century. In the 2015 global human capital trends report, Deloitte recognizes that there are “soft areas such as culture, engagement, leadership and development that have become urgent priorities” for organizations. Those topics “are no longer arcane and strictly owned by HR”, according to the report; “it is now an imperative for every leader and every executive in the organization”.

In my opinion, burnout is primarily a relationship issue. It is when one’s relationship with his or her job, management, peers, subordinates, or organization in general, has gone sour. In this post, I attempt to tackle the reasons leading to job burnout, its consequences and solutions.

Job satisfaction is a fragile state of mind which can be negatively affected by many factors including job burnout. The Deloitte human capital 2015 trends report clearly mentions the lack of “meaningful work” as a key cause for job burnout. It consists of not feeling that one’s work is being valued. Organizations need to rethink their ways of managing, evaluating, and recognizing their employees in order to feel rewarded. In fact, performance management was rated as one of the top human capital challenges. However, only six percent of business and HR leaders believe that they have an excellent program to drive engagement through performance management processes compared to almost half (45 percent) of respondents who believe their organizations are weak in this area. Organizations should “reinforce the importance of a coaching and feedback culture” and “focus on leadership, coaching, and performance management to help employees make their work meaningful”.

Burnout has been shown to be a key factor in employee disengagement as it leads to lack of efficacy, lethargy and cynicism. Psychologists, life coaches and other wellbeing specialists provide plenty of tips in order to prevent, manage and overcome job burnout. Those pieces of advice mostly revolve around “going back to basics”, and can be summarized into two main ideas. The first one consists of focusing on fitness. It is of paramount importance to secure time for exercise, sleep and to take care of one’s nutrition. The second one consists of redirecting a person’s relationships from occupational ones towards other relationships such as self, family and friends.

Nevertheless, overcoming job burnout is not the responsibility of the employee only. Employers also have an important role to play in identifying employees who are subject to burnout, preventing potential burnout, managing burnout symptoms and assisting in the healing process. Based on the same Deloitte report, only 13 percent of respondents believe that they can provide an excellent work-life balance to their employees, compared to 38 percent who think their organizations can weakly address this human capital challenge. Accordingly, the role of employers is not only restricted to contributing to the treatment of burnout. Employers should be observant of employees who may be on the road to job burnout and try to prevent it. Based on research, employees typically exhibit the following behaviors:

  • They lack a reasonable balance between professional life and personal life
  • They want “to be everything to everyone”
  • They feel they have little control over their work
  • They perceive their job as monotonous

There are many solutions to job burnout. Quitting is the easiest one; however, there are better ways to handle job burnout without having to leave the current job. The following suggestions involve both employees and employers once they have respectively gained self-awareness and willingness to take action. Employees and employers need to work hand-in-hand to make plans to address the root causes of burnout or the stressors that are fueling feelings of burnout. The employee, with the help of the employer, needs to figure out his or her options. These might include temporary part-time work, job rotation, international assignments, and trainings. Once the employee discusses his or her expectations with his or her employer, a compromise or a solution may be reached.

When a person is feeling burned out or if he or she feels that he is subject to burnout, it is important to seek support. The number of people who say they have no one to discuss important themes with has almost tripled in the past two and a half decades (McPherson et al., 2006). Reach out to colleagues, friends, family members, or others. It is an effective way to cope with job burnout and life stressors.

To view the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2015, go to:

By: Joana Abou Jaoude, manager, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East

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