Click here for coaching and mentoring.Burnout  

Overdeveloped work habits and underdeveloped emotional support systems can cause stress which leads to burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a familiar term these days: it's the physical or emotional exhaustion that results from long-term stress or frustration. Chronic fatigue is a major symptom of burnout: one feels physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Behaviorally, the burnout worker becomes cynical, indifferent and increasingly ineffective in the job.

According to Herbert J. Freudenberger, the New York psychologist who coined the term in 1972, burnout describes a specific condition. It is an emotional state characterized by an overwhelming and enduring feeling of exhaustion or aggravation. Burnout is a condition that develops gradually as the person's creativity and effectiveness erode into fatigue, skepticism and an inability to function productively.

"An overburdened, over-stretched executive is the best executive, because he or she doesn't have the time to meddle, to deal in trivia, to bother people."
~ Jack Welch ~

Who is at blame for burnout?

Traditionally, the worker is the one who gets the blame but research shows that the cause of burnout lies mainly in current economic trends, the use of technology and management philosophy within organizations. Driven by global competition and the demands of bottom-line profits, corporations are cashing in their human assets for short-term stock performance.

Is your management using:

tighter controls to achieve short-term gains?

deadlines that are overwhelming?

intensive workloads?

work demands taking more time with more complexity?

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Leadership Burnout Leads Corporate Burnout

Confidence and energy are leading indicators of corporate performance. As leaders become de-energized and lose confidence in themselves, these emotions are transferred to employees. Employee engagement and long-term improvements in corporate performance can't be accomplished with a burned out, low energy and low confidence leadership team.

Leadership Pulse research shows that, across the board, leaders' energy at work is going down and their confidence is declining. The Leadership Pulse research comes from a sample of over 4,000 executives who participate in short, real-time, eePulse Surveys conducted every two months. In the May 2005 survey, the business confidence of worldwide executives in their own personal leadership and management skills slipped to 88% from 92% in the summer of 2004. While the confidence in their firm's ability to change as needed dropped to 56% from 65%.

Compared to scores from last year at this time, the overall energy reported by executives dropped from 6.72 to 6.25. The percent of people reporting to be in the overall, "high-energy" zones dropped from 62% to 53%. "We've actually seen over the last year a continuous trend downward in these numbers," said Dr. Theresa Welbourne, president and CEO of eePulse, and an adjunct professor of executive education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "I think the people issue is starting to come to the forefront of organizations' radar screens. They can't take it for granted anymore, but they don't have the bench strength to really deal with the issue."

Burnout is costly to both the individual and the organization

For the individual, burnout can lead to poor decision-making and a drop in work quality, productivity and morale. Studies show that the individuals most likely to develop burnout are well-educated, self-motivated and attracted to demanding jobs where the risks and rewards are high. This person is also the type who enjoys fostering change and adds value to a business. 

For the organization, costs include higher medical costs, increased employee turnover and higher absenteeism. It is estimated that in the United States more than half of the 550 million working days lost each year to absenteeism are stress-related. 

And if the organization is entrepreneurial, all the risks, burdens and intense focus cause stress which afflicts most business owners. Entrepreneurs seem to be recognizing their problems by connecting with personal coaches, psychiatrists and therapists who specialize in counseling business leaders. Interest in entrepreneurial angst is growing among scholars, academics and foundations who are beginning to consider the personal toll of running a company.  

What can be done about burnout?

Workers and management must collaborate to attack the problem. Management should focus on preventive measures, improve overall human resource management, communicate clearly and provide support. Rather than suffering from exhaustion, cynicism and ineffectiveness, workers in a healthy workplace experience energy, involvement and increased productivity.

Look for these symptoms that someone is silently suffering from burnout: 

Inability to concentrate



Increased sensitivity to criticism


Spike in sick days


Antisocial behavior

Inability to cope with daily duties

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