New Understanding of Burnout

Spotted at Slashdot:

“New York Magazine has posted a feature story about the growing phenomenon of ‘burnout’ and the growing interest of both healthcare professionals and even corporate management in this problem. Probably the most surprising thing learned from reading this article is that work load is not the best predictor of burnout. Instead it has more to do with perceived ‘return on investment’ of effort. So work places are having to learn to adjust the work environment to reduce or prevent burnout. From the article: ‘”It’s kind of like ergonomics,” [Christina Maslach] finally says. “It used to be, ‘You sit for work? Here’s a chair.’ But now we design furniture to fit and support the body. And we’re doing the same here. The environments themselves have to say, ‘We want people to thrive and grow.’ There was a shift, finally, in how people understood the question.”‘ NPR’s Talk of the Nation also had a recent feature story based on this article.”

More from the article:

  • Burnout is the gap between expectations and rewards
  • Older workers, as it turns out, have more perspective and more experience; it’s the young idealists who go flying into a profession, plumped full of high hopes, and run full-speed into a wall
  • Childless people, though unburdened by the daily strains of parenting, tend to burn out far more than people with kids.
  • As Schaufeli, the Dutch researcher, notes, one of the strongest predictors of burnout isn’t just work overload but “work-home interference”
  • “There is something about interruption that makes people especially unproductive and technology interrupts us all the time—e-mails, cell phones. It feeds into our sense of control”
  • If our leisure isn’t restorative, aren’t we more apt to burn out?
  • Burnout says more about the employer than it does about the employee: Imagine investigating the personality of cucumbers to discover why they had turned into sour pickles without analyzing the vinegar barrels in which they’d been submerged!
  • Maslach discovered that a certain employee award, designed with the best of intentions, was making people nuts.

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Filed under Human Resource, Quality of Work Life

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