Employee burnout: it's back

by Jamie Farshchi11 Jul 2012

A recent study found people are more likely to experience burnout when they are exposed to continuous stress and feel they have no other work alternative.

According to one consulting organisational and industrial psychologist, those with high ambition but a lack of stress management skills are also at risk for burnout. “If you’ve got a new hire who has a real need to prove themselves in a position that has a relative degree of difficulty, desire to prove themselves can turn into a compulsion – they may lose work/life balance, neglecting their needs if they have obvious behavioural changes, something like depersonalization can be a strong indicator they’re on their way to burnout," Dr Tim Hill said.

Dr Hill also pointed to workplace bullying as a leading cause of workplace stress and burnout saying bullying often flies under the radar and workers sometimes feel reluctant to report it.

Causes of burnout:

  • continual job related stress
  • long hours
  • increased workload
  • poor stress or conflict management
  • workplace bullying

Warning signs:

  • increased absenteeism
  • increased workplace conflict
  • cynicism, isolation or detachment from others in the workplace

Your Employee Assitance Program (EAP) is a good place to turn to if employees in your organization are suffering from stress related burnout but prevention is often more successful.

Addressing workplace stressors and expectations can prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed. Addressing employee’s ability to cope with stressors through stress management training can also be an excellent preventative measure, Hill said.


  • set aside a dedicated relaxation space in the office that employees can use as a retreat when situations get stressful
  • have a policy to limit lengthy meetings
  • feeling supported in the workplace can help prevent burnout so consider implementing social wellness programs such as a lunch-hour walking club
  • flexible, or reorganized work schedules
  • consider offering stressed-out, long serving employees with the opportunity to take paid sabbaticals to travel overseas and participate in charity work
  • offer counselling services and encourage employees to make use of them
  • provide complimentary stress management training


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  • by Bernie Althofer 12/07/2012 9:33:08 AM

    Dr Hill raises an interesting issue regarding bullying flying under the radat with employees being reluctant to report it. Unfortunately, it does appear at least from my experience, that whilst many organisations do have systems and processes in place for preventing, detecting and resolving workplace bullying, employees still indicate a level of 'fear' when it comes to report bullying and other counter productive behaviours.

    As a number of discussions are currently indicating, bullying is a complex issue requiring complex solutions. Changing workplace culture, communication and managerial practices, providing supportive environments and making the invisible visible are much more difficult than trying to 'fix' the problem by introducing more 'legal' approaches.

    People are finding that the current economic environment plays a key part in making the decision to report bullying. Resolution processes are time consuming as well as physically, psychologically and financially draining with some incidents dragging on for months and even years. In some cases, the targets sees how the bully is rewarded and decides it is just not worth the pain.

    I suspect that as educative processes across organisations increase, and there is a wider understanding of the issues involved in the Work Health and Safety legislation, organisations will need to become more proactive in addressing psychological trauma.

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