The Truth About Job Burnout Essay

2641 words - 11 pages

Job burnout has been conceptualized in many different ways; however the most cited definition is “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of others, and a feeling of reduced personal accomplishment” (Lee and Ashforth, 2009, p.743). It is a condition that is on the rise among workers today. Burnout is a type of stress response most commonly displayed by individuals who have intense contact and involvement with others during the course of their normal workday. Traditionally, burnout was seen as occurring solely within the “helping” professions such as nursing and education; however, it is now seen as a widespread issue. Originally, burnout was studied from an emotional arousal perspective; however, empirical research began to emerge in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Cordes and Dougherty, 1993). This review will look at the 3 major components of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Additionally, the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the relationship between burnout and stress will be reviewed. Finally, the major causes and consequences of burnout will be presented.

This first component, or phase, of burnout is emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion is considered to be the most important of the three components. It is “characterized by a lack of energy and a feeling that one’s emotional resources are used up. This . . . may coexist with feelings of frustration and tension . . .” (Cordes and Dougherty, 1993, p.623). Leiter and Maslach (2008) note that emotional exhaustion “refers to feelings of being emotionally overextended and drained by one’s contact with other people” (p. 297). This emotional exhaustion can manifest itself in physical characteristics such as waking up just as tired as when going to bed or lacking required energy to take on another task or face-to-face encounter (Maslach and Leiter, 2011).

Cordes and Dougherty (1993) present several key determinants of emotion exhaustion. The first, work overload, is defined as “the perception of too much work to accomplish in the time available” (p. 640). This organizational situation often forces employees to exert more energy and spend more time on work then they are capable of. Role conflict is a second source of emotion exhaustion. Frequently different individuals within an organization will impose conflicting expectations upon employees. Reconciling these differences can be both frustrating and emotionally taxing for employees. Personal expectations also contribute to emotional exhaustion. Typically young employees are overachievers with unrealistic expectations of both themselves and the organization they work for. “High expectations in terms of work challenge, rewards and recognition, and career advancement . . .can create intrinsic demand stress” (Cordes and Dougherty, 1993, p.642). These expectations, when not met, can lead to emotional exhaustion. Additionally, individuals who are highly involved with their job or...

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