Burnout at work has attracted significant attention from researchers recently as the companies are trying to develop more efficient human resources strategies to remain competitive in the market. Burnout employees tend to underperform, and their absenteeism, as well as emotional state, contribute to the development of an unhealthy atmosphere within the organization (Mamidenna & Viswanatham, 2014).
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Researchers have developed various strategies to address burnout in a variety of settings, and managers can adjust these strategies to the peculiarities of their organizations and employees. It is important to consider recent approaches to the issue to create the most effective strategies aimed at addressing burnout that can be used in diverse settings.
It is important to take into account the reasons for burnout, as this will affect the development of strategies to address the problem. One of the major reasons for burnout at work is excessive workload. Researchers agree with this statement, but they also add that numerous other factors contribute to increased burnout among employees. Hence, Diestel, Cosmar, and Schmidt (2013) note that the need to take up responsibility and make decisions often leads to the increased burnout of employees. Demerouti, Bakker, and Leiter (2014) agree that many employees regard making decisions as an additional load. Employees are often unable to select the best strategies and make decisions, which increases their burnout.
Another factor is certain organizational behavior and the atmosphere in the workplace. Son, Kim, and Kim (2014) claim that the lack of trust towards leaders contributes considerably to employees’ emotional exhaustion and burnout. Thus, the researchers provide the results of their research that suggest that in case employees’ cognition-based trust is higher, they feel less stressed and emotionally (as well as physically) loaded.
In other words, trust in leaders reduces employees’ burnout. Of course, proper relationships with colleagues also have a positive impact on employee’s performance and motivation. On the contrary, conflicts, misunderstanding, miscommunication, and associated issues contribute to the increase in burnout.
Another factor related to the atmosphere in the organization is the high expectations of colleagues or/and supervisors. Childs and Stoeber (2012) argue that socially prescribed perfectionism increases employees’ burnout. As defined by the researchers, socially prescribed perfectionism is the belief that additional effort should be made to achieve the highest possible results to create a proper image within the organization or develop proper relationships with others (Childs & Stoeber, 2012).
The researchers note that high demands of supervisors or colleagues and their high expectations make employees feel additional psychological and emotional load that results in increased burnout. These findings support the arguments provided by Son, Kim, and Kim (2014) who see the role of supervisors as essential to increase or decrease burnout. However, Childs and Stoeber (2012) implement a deeper analysis and state that employees’ characteristic features are also crucial and can significantly affect burnout at work. Thus, employees can differently respond to high demands and increased expectations.
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Some researchers also pay attention to employees’ health conditions. For instance, De Beer, Pienaar, and Rothmann (2014) stress that burnout employees often have sleep disorders. The researchers also argue that sleep and burnout affect each other since insufficient sleep leads to greater burnout and increased burnout contributes to the development of sleep disorders. Notably, employees who receive depression treatment report about their sleep issues. These employees tend to be burnout. Thus, a particular health condition (lack of sleep) contributes to the increase of burnout.
Apart from the personal characteristics of employees as well as their health conditions and the atmosphere in the workplace, researchers identify another factor that positively correlates with burnout. Nahrgang, Morgeson, and Hofmann (2011) note that workplace safety and job resources also correlate with burnout. The researchers argue that safety hazards have detrimental effects on employees’ emotional state and job satisfaction. They also increase employees’ burnout. At the same time, improved resources available to employees negatively correlate with burnout. Employees feel less stressed and overloaded with tasks when they have enough resources to complete their projects.
Apart from identifying factors contributing to burnout at work, researchers also provide their views on ways to address this issue. The development of a proper atmosphere at the workplace is seen as an effective strategy. Of course, it is important to remember that the availability of resources and workplace safety reduce burnout (Nahrgang et al., 2011). Hence, leaders should make sure that employees work in proper conditions.
Furthermore, diversification is regarded as one of the ways to diminish burnout at work. Guillot (2013) states that giving employees different tasks is beneficial for their motivation as well as the degree of their burnout. The researcher stresses that even changing routine tasks (or order of their completion) can have a positive effect on employees’ performance.
It is noteworthy that diversification should be carried out at different levels. Thus, Oerlemans and Bakker (2014) report on the favorable effects of diversification when it comes to burnout recovery strategies. Thus, it is clear that free time should be spent properly and employees have to rest from their work. It is beneficial to take part in various social events. Interestingly, Oerlemans and Bakker (2014) also report that physical activity as a type of recovery is not as effective as expected.
This suggests that fixation on certain tasks contributes significantly to the increase of burnout. Researchers also add that this fixation leads to decreased performance. De Beer et al. (2014) also agree that diversification is favorable for people’s health as it contributes to proper sleep patterns, which are associated with less burnout.
Another type of diversification is the provision of more challenging tasks. Guillot (2013) claims that this is an effective way to make an employee more motivated and engaged, which is associated with decreased burnout. The researcher notes that many practitioners have applied this approach and it turned out to be efficient as employees felt certain appreciation of their previous achievements and they were interested in the new task that could help them achieve new higher results at work.
However, the effectiveness of this approach is quite doubtful, as there is quite extensive bulk of the research that shows that increased complexity of tasks can contribute to the increase in burnout. Thus, Diestel et al. (2013) have implemented research that shows that additional load (or increased complexity of tasks) reduces significantly cognitive performance. Apart from making various errors, burnout employees were less reluctant to complete tasks compared to their healthy colleagues.
One of the most popular strategies to address burnout among managers is positive reinforcement. Appreciation can help employees feel that their effort is important and valued, which can often reduce burnout. Many practitioners assume that reward is almost the only way to make a burnout employee try harder and perform better. Guillot (2013) notes that monetary rewards are very effective and can reduce employees’ burnout.
At the same time, Van Dam, Keijsers, Eling, and Becker (2011) state that burnout employees are less receptive to financial rewards. The results of the research involving healthcare professionals it turned out that burnout employees’ performance did not improve even though they were promised to get a certain monetary reward, while healthy employees’ performance improved. Sometimes employees are burnout and emotionally exhausted, which makes any motivation ineffective. Moreover, rewards can hurt the atmosphere in the workplace, which, in its turn contributes to increased burnout of employees (Mamidenna & Viswanatham, 2014). Of course, it does not mean that the strategy does not work, but it depends on the degree of burnout as well as the personal peculiarities of employees.
Some researchers also add that the problem may need a complex approach that includes the professional help of counselors and psychiatrists. De Beer et al. (2014) claim that depression treatment, as well as particular interventions aimed at the development of proper sleep patterns, may be necessary in many cases. At that, the researchers note that the use of each of these methods does not guarantee a positive result.
Therefore, it is clear that in the vast majority of cases, it can be insufficient to apply one of the approaches. It is important to analyze the situation and develop a plan involving a mix of strategies aimed at a decrease in burnout. Guillot (2013) states that leaders should adjust strategies to the needs and peculiarities of employees and their organization. It is also necessary to add that each employee should be responsible for his/her state and it is important to make a certain effort to decrease one’s burnout.
Childs, J.H. & Stoeber, J. (2012). Do you want me to be perfect? Two longitudinal studies on socially prescribed perfectionism, stress and burnout in the workplace. Work & Stress, 26(4), 347-364.
De Beer, L.T., Pienaar, J., & Rothmann, S. (2014). Job burnout’s relationship with sleep difficulties in the presence of control variables: A self-report study. South African Journal of Psychology, 44(4), 454-466.
Demerouti, E., Bakker, A.B., & Leiter, M. (2014). Burnout and job performance: The moderating role of selection, optimization, and compensation strategies. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(1), 96-107.
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Diestel, S., Cosmar, M., & Schmid, K.H. (2013). Burnout and impaired cognitive functioning: The role of executive control in the performance of cognitive tasks. Work & Stress, 27(2), 164-180.
Guillot, C. (2013). Avoiding burnout. Internal Auditor, 70(2), 44-49.
Mamidenna, S., & Viswanatham, K.N. (2014). Burnout and retaliatory behavior intents in the workplace – An explanatory study. Internal Auditor, 44(1), 54-65.
Nahrgang, J.D., Morgeson, F.P., & Hofmann, D.A. (2011). Safety at work: A meta-analytic investigation of the link between job demands, job resources, burnout, engagement, and safety outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(1), 71-94.
Oerlemans, W.G.M., & Bakker, A.B. (2014). Burnout and daily recovery: A day reconstruction study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(3), 303-314.
Son, S.J., Kim, D.Y., & Kim, M. (2014). How perceived interpersonal justice relates to job burnout and intention to leave: The role of leader–member exchange and cognition-based trust in leaders. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 17, 12-24.
Van Dam, A., Keijsers, G.P.J., Eling, P.A.T.M., & Becker, E.S. (2011). Testing whether reduced cognitive performance in burnout can be reversed by a motivational intervention. Work & Stress, 25(3), 257-271.