Keep Those Burn-Out Blues at Bay
The Sunday Herald
September 17, 2000
The effects of stress at work can be
McMahon investigates the causes, symptoms and possible ways of how to
JOB burn-out, once considered a
marginal affliction, is
receiving renewed attention in the USA as a serious issue. A burnt-out
says American psychologist Dr.
Beverly Potter, is like Sisyphus, in Greek
mythology, who was condemned for eternity to roll a boulder up a hill,
have it tumble back down just before it reached the top.
"Burnout is when a person's motivation
to do their job
starts declining," she says. "People start thinking: 'Why bother?'
They believe they cannot increase their job satisfaction, regardless of
laid-back Californian, conducts
seminars for top Silicon Valley companies on preventing burnout and has
books on the subject. Such is her expertise, she is nicknamed Beverly
in the USA.
tells companies that the condition can have a
detrimental effect on productivity and profits - by increasing employee
turnover and absenteeism. There is little teamwork and morale becomes
Burnt-out people feel they have lost control over their working lives.
"People are overwhelmed with negative
everything starts to annoy them. They get angry with callers on the
with customers. They become susceptible to illness or take days off,
they are feeling fine, and become irritable with colleagues. They may
or drugs in the evening - or they just go home and slump all night in
THE next stage, says Potter, is an
attitude of helplessness
about work, the full-blown Sisyphus complex. The danger is that the
worker's dissatisfaction can become contagious and a whole department
what is the solution to get rid of those burnt-out blues?
What you should not do, except as a very last resort, is leave your
Potter. "Every job has demotivating aspects, but the challenge
is in how
they are handled.
"Burnt-out people have succumbed to
powerlessness, so they really have to renew their enthusiasm for work,"
Potter points out.
To do that, people should challenge
themselves by setting
goals and rewards. Almost every job can be modified in some way, she
people should try to tailor their jobs to their own style and rhythm.
Increasing skills, or learning new ones, will also help overcome that
says burnt-out people rarely have the energy for
anything outside work, so it is important to make an effort to
socialise out of
hours with family or friends. It is also imperative to develop a
about your job.
"The caring professions - doctors,
workers, probation officers - are much more prone to burnout," according to Potter.
"Too many people worry about work outside office hours and they have to
learn detachment. Give work your best while you're on duty and then let
You will become a much more effective person if you can achieve that."
Changing jobs is a last resort and most
people do not need
to go that far.
"A shake-up of your working life can
work wonders," Potter adds.