Burnout is a medical condition and is caused by long-term exposure to work-related stressors. It is a widely recognised occupational hazard which can be prevented with early identification of the signs and symptoms. Occupational burnout can happen to anyone and a definition is “an experience of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, caused by long-term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding”.

The initial stage of burnout is that you may have a heavy workload with a high level of job stress, and high job expectations, job demands can exceed job resources and the job does not fulfil your expectations. You may find that you do not have the skills for the job such as being excellent technically but not a manager or a leader and finding it very difficult or impossible to admit this.

Signs and Symptoms

Burnout is a chronic state of stress which can lead to Physical and emotional exhaustion, Depersonalisation and Cynicism and Lack of personal accomplishment.

Physical and emotional exhaustion
This can be when there is little or no interaction within the workplace and being unable to engage with colleagues. Some signs can include: –

Depersonalisation and Cynicism
This can be impersonal attitudes and reactions towards others and this is especially with people you may be dealing with on a regular basis. This type of behaviour can be seen as a way to create a distance between yourself and anyone who may be causing any discomfort to you. Some signs can include: –

Lack of personal accomplishment
Can feel little sense of achievement in relation to your job, even although you may be doing better than you think. Some signs can include: –

Despair, helplessness, aversion – last stage of burnout with some or all of these feelings.

The factors which can lead to burnout relating to your job can be excessive work demands, a lack of resources, workload, time pressure, role conflict and role ambiguity, lack of support from management or peers are the main “triggers” of burnout. Lack of organisational support when expectations are high and giving little to the employee in return.

What to do next

If you are suffering from burnout or think that you are heading that way, then identify the causes of the stressors which have led to occupational burnout – these could be lack of support from management and/or your peers, change, job demands.

It is always good to talk to someone who is a good listener – a friend, relative. Seek professional help if necessary. Do not be afraid to approach someone to ask for help and they will not see you as being unable to carry out your job or as weak but listen to them as they may be able to offer help and advice as well as moral support which is vital at this stage.