Recovering from burnout is a major challenge. In my conversations with people who have experienced burnout, many have changed jobs or even abandoned their previous career in their efforts to restore balance in their lives.

The evidence indicates that critical mismatches of people with their work context as drive burnout. When the workplace remains constant or even becomes even more incompatible with employees’ aspirations or values, it makes sense to explore strategies for coping more effectively with the situation.

In a recent article with Eva Demerouti and Arnold Bakker, we explored three general strategies.

    • Selection: Prioritizing your responsibilities, dropping those with lower urgency.

    • Optimization: Focus your efforts on enjoyable parts of the job with the hope of energizing your efforts for tackling the drudgery.

    • Compensation: Find ways to delegate some tasks. The criterion here is not so much whether the tasks are enjoyable or urgent, rather it is the availability of someone capable of doing those tasks.

Our research indicated that selection has the potential for causing trouble when you neglect necessary tasks. Optimization often requires effortful activity or even learning new skills, both of which are a strain for people already experiencing burnout.

The bottom line, as we noted in our article and emphasized by an article in Fast Company is that compensation is the strategy with the best chance for success. Delegating tasks or learning to say no while directing new, interesting tasks to colleagues can reduce demands, giving people an opportunity to restore their energy while remaining in the same job.

Does this fit with your experience or observations?


Posted in Areas of Worklife, Burnout, Civility, Coping | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Much good work goes unrecognized. People make fine contributions that no one acknowledges. Perhaps the work is so subtle it defies notice but perhaps the work falls on deaf ears: others notice but they do not move themselves to comment or appreciate.

When attending a music festival this week I witness a culture that believes in appreciation. When people perform well as musicians or teachers, they are literally applauded. People clap their hands. Last evening in the course of the evening session, one of the group would play a brief solo, receive applause, and then the group would play a few more tunes together.

Recognition is energizing. Low levels of reward and recognition are among the six areas of worklife that make a major difference in whether people experience engagement or burnout. Some groups show a culture of appreciation: people attend to one another’s contributions and make a point of commenting. Other workgroups

Receiving applause is not without its costs. For others to appreciate your work you need to make it visible. Being open to praise means to be open to scrutiny. The musician who plays a tune for a group of fellow musicians has an audience with a refined sense of quality. When working in a climate of appreciation, it is important to do your best work.

Taking Action:

Make a point of complementing colleagues this week. Keep a tally of the number of times you say something that acknowledges and celebrates a contribution. You may spark a movement.

Exhaustion with Reward

Posted in Areas of Worklife, Burnout, Work Engagement, Workgroups | Tagged , , | Leave a comment