219: Ten Symptoms of Job Burnout - and What to Do About Them


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Today, we’re talking about the signs of job burnout and what to do. The first thing I want to say about this topic is that there is the job burnout you can recover from without leaving your current job, and there is the job burnout that will require you to move on.

My sources for today’s episode include Forbes.com and Greater Good Magazine.

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Some of you KNOW you are burned out. For others of you, it may be like lightbulbs burning out one by one – you don’t realize the room is dimming until the last bulb goes out and you are in complete darkness.

Causes of the symptoms of job burnout include:

1. Lack of job control and or resources to effectively do your job.

Ask yourself: Do I feel in control of my job? Do I have the necessary resources to succeed in my job?

The cure: Talk to your boss about exactly what you need to be effective and what is getting in the way of that. If your boss balks or is part of the problem, this is a job burnout factor that might only be resolved by moving on.

2. Work overload.

Ask yourself: Does the company culture reward results, or time spent at work? Would I be penalized for working less, even if I still achieved the same results?

The cure: Meet with your boss about lower-priority assignments so you have his/her help and support in rearranging your workload. If the company culture is such that you are penalized for leaving at a reasonable hour or keeping your weekends open, look elsewhere.

3. Unclear job expectations.

Ask yourself: Do I clearly understand my boss’s expectations of what I need to accomplish?

The cure: If you don’t have a written job description, make a stab at one and meet with your boss about it. Get clarification from him or her on the priorities and expectations – and how your success will be evaluated.

4. Work environment that leads to increased stress levels.

Ask yourself: Does the office culture and dynamics foster a positive working environment?

The cure: Do what you can to improve your personal work environment, such as plants, pictures, occasionally closing your door. Foster relationships with co-workers through lunches, drinks after work, etc.

If you are working remotely, what can you do to alleviate the isolation? How can you schedule your day and your work environment to alleviate stress?

5. Lack of physical activity.

Ask yourself: Am I getting enough physical activity to feel good about myself and remain healthy?

The cure: Find micro-opportunities for physical activity throughout your day, such as taking a break every hour to walk up and down a flight of stairs or parking as far away from the building as possible. What do you enjoy doing for activity? Schedule time for a tennis match, run, or yoga class – this should be a top priority.

6. Too much work and too little play.

Ask yourself: Am I scheduling enough “me” time and time with friends and family?

The cure: I like to think of this as work/life blend, rather than work/life balance. If you don’t feel you have the proper blend, what small ingredients can you add? What quick wins can you have to get more time for yourself and/or with friends and family?

7. Lack of reward or recognition.

Ask yourself: Is there evidence that this company and my boss truly value my contributions?

The cure: If this is a systemic issue with your employer – and rewards and recognition are extremely important to you – it may be time to move on. If the issue lies more with your boss, can you volunteer to lead an employee recognition program with some co-workers?

8. Lack of fairness and equity.

Ask yourself: Are assignments doled out equitably? Is praise and recognition consistent and in balance with the achievement? Are there “favorites” in the office?

The cure: This may be a time to cut your losses, especially if the boss’s favoritism is hurting your career. If you choose to hang in there, decide that your boss’s favoritism and inequity is no reflection on you or your performance – it’s his or her issue.

9. Values mismatch.

Ask yourself: Do the values of your employer and your boss align with your values?

The cure: If your company makes a product or provides a service you don’t believe in, you’re better off leaving. The same is true if your company operates in a way that is incongruous with your values.

10.Lack of friendships at work.

Ask yourself: Do I have close friends at work with whom I can share my successes and frustrations? If I am working remotely, have I accommodated those friendships in this new environment?

The cure: Make friendships a priority – schedule time for lunches, coffee dates, etc. Ask your coworkers about their personal lives. You can do this even if you are working remotely – and it’s all the more important that you do.

According to Jill Suttie, in Six Causes of Burnout at Work:

“While organizations can do much to prevent burnout by setting kind, considerate workplace policies and improving workplace culture, individuals have a role to play, too. Understanding what burns you out and trying to alleviate it is important to keeping you happy on the job.

“Some people with particular personality traits or career paths may suffer burnout more easily, writes Moss. For example, those who have higher levels of neuroticism (over-worry), conscientiousness

(especially if it leads to perfectionism—a potential problem), and introversion (in a highly social office) may be particularly susceptible.

“To help individuals do what they can to reduce burnout in themselves, say no to things that are not necessary to do your job, without fear of “missing out” or disappointing others. Do more of what you’re good at and less of the stuff that drains you—perhaps skipping the Zoom meeting with multiple people and phoning a person you need to talk to instead. Lastly, it is important to have friends—at work and outside of it—whom you can lean on when times are hard.”

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