Workplace Burnout

Apr 8, 2020

Mike **  has come for cor counselling feeling anxious and tired. He reports poor sleep. He describes his job, the time pressure, the lack of support from his manager, the lack of role clarity and the workload.  What makes Mike feel even worse is  his belief that "everyone else is coping with it".  I ask Mike about the hours he works and he replies "well I start at 830 and can usually get away by 630 or 730".

Mike goes on to describe working on weekends and replying to emails late in the evening. Mikes manager has told the team that "if you are a "team player you will postpone vacations from time to time".  The manager never gives feedback and Mike doesn't know if he is a star employee or if he is the most likely to be let go. Mike also shares about the culture of bullying in the office.

Mike has reframed his burnout, not as a sign that he is in a toxic workplace but  his belief that he is a less capable employee. I give him a Burnout Inventory to take to his office to photocopy and leave next to the water cooler. Soon nearly everyone in the office is talking about burnout and most are giving themselves a high burnout score. The team then can name the problem, quantify it, and begin to address it.

Burnout Inventory Test

For each of the following items rate as follows

0. = You do not experience this, or only occasionally

  1. = This is true for you frequently, weekly.
  2. = You experience this most of the time (daily)
  • Exhausted and tired
  • Irritable and with a short fuse
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless "Who cares, why bother"
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent sleep disturbance, never enough sleep
  • Starting day feeling tired
  • Feeling worthless, a failure
  • Loss of enthusiasm or enjoyment about work or life
  • Change of appetite, overeating or lack of interest in food
  • Overlooking normal duties and responsibilities
  • Feeling unappreciated by others
  • Feeling burdened by pressures and responsibilities
  • Awareness of getting less and less done in the time available
  • Becoming too preoccupied with details
  • Unable to say no
  • Becoming inflexible or fussy
  • An awareness that you are driving yourself too hard at work
  • Becoming hypercritical or cynical with workmates, family, friends
  • Boredom with work or life in general
  • Loss of clear perspective on your life or work
  • Feeling out of control in areas of your life
  • Regular somatic symptoms such as headache, back ache, chest pain, cramps, ulcers, rashes, persistent colds, allergies, accidents, diarrhoea ( add one point for every symptom )

Assessing score

  1. to 5      no problem, no hazard

6 to 10       ORANGE ZONE time to pay attention and make some changes

11 to 20     RED ALERT ZONE urgent changes or burnout will be inevitable

21 to 30    BURNOUT ZONE  You are already burned out and heading toward clinical depression and physical breakdown.

As burnout become closer we enter a deprivation state that makes addictive behaviours much more likely such as drug and alcohol use, gambling, sex addiction etc.

Often, the way of working with burnout is with working with your beliefs such as

exchanging  "I am the weakest link in our team" to

" I am doing well to cope in a toxic workplace where nearly everyone is struggling"

Mike changes his belief when he looks at the reality of his job and his workplace.

"I am paid  for a  40 hour week but works 60 hrs"

"I have no regular lunch break or coffee break"

"I eat takeaways at my desk 3 times per week"

"My boss is a narcissistic bully."

When we are clear about the facts of our burnout situation and the effect on our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing we are much more likely to be motivated to explore options around making new plans, new habits and changes.

Often powerful change can be initiated in the workplace through the collective action of colleagues to change a toxic culture. Individual options and plans can be explored with your counsellor.

See my other posts

Martin Fraser, B.A. (Hons) Psyc. Dip Counselling.

Particular interest in enhancing resilience in my community against Depression, Anxiety, Isolation and Addictions. Member of NZ Assoc Counsellors.

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