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The Main Factors and Causes of Professional Burnout

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Freudenberger (1974) described the burnout as condition of tiredness and dissatisfaction emerging from unreasonable insistence on personal resources and prompting physical and mental fatigue which he saw among human administration specialists. Physical and mental fatigue at the workplace which is also called as burnout can be explained as an extreme result of long term stress at the workplace, which is caused when the work pressure from the supervisor is unsteady from a lengthy period of time. Organizations are changing with increasing competitions and demanding more from their employees. It has negative impact on employee’s personal and professional lives.

Burnout appears mostly in service profession. Burnout can be caused in any kind of job and phase of life, but mostly it is found in people who have to deal with the public and social community like people working in NGOs, lawyers, sales persons, teachers etc. It can also be the cause of various diseases such as stress, anxiety and increased alcohol consumption which can lead to other serious health issues. Maslach’s (1993) research tells us that burnout has three conditions;

  1. Emotional tiredness. This shows a decrease in energy levels, recognition of the discrepancy between the surroundings and the individual’s feelings. It is the main cause of burnout.
  2. Depersonalization. Another major reason of burnout is depersonalization. It causes the person suffering from it to become dependent on other people, unconcerned, cynical. Depersonalization also leads to trouble in interpersonal relationships.
  3. Lack of Personal Achievement. The third condition of burnout is lack of Personal achievement which was mostly seen in people who deal with social community and the public.

The person suffering from burnout is considered useless for the organization and he is unable to complete the tasks in the required time limit. It is seen that the burnout symptoms do not appear suddenly rather they take time and occur slowly as a result of working in a stressful environment for a long time period. This leads to an increase in the level of professional disappointment and dehumanization. Feelings of a person are directly related to his aims and objectives of life, needs and desires. A few factors determine the rate of burnout in organizational setups such as the factors related to the workplace and individuals. The factors which cause anxiety at workplace and leads to burnout are extreme amount of work given by the supervisors, lack of incentives and regard by the boss, lack of adequate resources, conflict at workplace and high level of job uncertainty. Downsizing and continuous changes in the work setting are also causes of burnout.

Burnout is caused in employees when they cannot handle the anxiety related to their jobs. Especially, when they work revolves around dealing with customers all day long and includes continuous collaboration and contact with the boss. Burnout is a part of every job but it is found to occur more in jobs like teaching, banking and medical. Research shows that the occurrence of burnout syndrome in teachers is 30% and it is 10% in healthcare professionals. These jobs are people oriented as they involve working together with other people such as students, customers and clients etc instead of machines and data. The main causes of stress among employees in banking sector are poor work/family balance, time pressure, work overload and the lack of administrative support from managers. Healthcare professionals have to work with patients who are in pain and are dying which leads to high level of anxiety and in return causes burnout. For instance, doctors in the cancer unit have to deal with patients who are suffering from extreme pain and generally have a very short life ahead of them. Staying with the patients all day long, the doctors develop a sense of attachment with the patients and this becomes cause of burnout for the doctors.

Burnout is also affected by some individual factors such as work related attitudes (low level of salary, high expectations from the boss, extreme workload), demographic variables (age, gender, socio-economic status) and personality traits (low level of self-esteem, pessimistic attitude). Studies show that females and new employees face more burnout as compared to other individuals.

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