Occupational Burnout: Symptoms, Causes, Development Stages and Overcoming. Checklist of Tips

Occupational Burnout: Symptoms, Causes, Development Stages and Overcoming. Checklist of Tips

If you face chronic fatigue in professional activities, lose interest in your job, feel psychological deterioration and fail to recover your self-possession to resolve working issues, you can probably suffer from the emotional burnout syndrome. Such a condition negatively affects job performance, well-being and overall life quality. Therefore, you should combat it immediately.

The article reveals the specific nature of burnout and its overcoming.

What is burnout?

What is burnout?

The emotional burnout syndrome means a set of problems caused by work. It has a negative impact on both job performance and well-being.

Burnout implies physical fatigue, emotional and brain exhaustion. People in this state are unhappy, uninterested in work and unsatisfied. Besides, they are less productive and motivated, experiencing embarrassment and apathy that do not vanish even after weekend or vacation.

Experts assert that any person regardless of gender, age and profession is vulnerable to burnout.

A poor risk group includes:

  • workers who constantly communicate with different people: sales managers, call center and technical support staff, HR specialists, advisors, doctors, teachers, coaches, sellers etc.;

  • individuals holding senior positions: entrepreneurs, company owners, top managers, chiefs;

  • representatives of creative occupations: designers, film directors, artists, journalists and so on.

One more risk category is employees taking on too many obligations, overworking and being under pressure because of professional activity requirements.

This syndrome is also applicable to people with such personal attributes as perfectionism, idealism, a strong sense of responsibility, steep demands for themselves and surrounding persons.

Burnout reasons

The development of the occupational burnout syndrome does not depend on skills and experience. It can be faced by experienced entrepreneurs, successful businesspeople and beginners.

Various specialists stress the following reasons for the burnout syndrome:

  • chronic tension;

  • heavy load at work;

  • workplace monotony or regular chaotic changes;

  • severe competition and overstated personnel requirements;

  • frequent excess hours;

  • labor compensation dissatisfaction;

  • organizational changes on the job;

  • conflicts and colleague criticism;

  • limited time to implement the given tasks;

  • no relation between the working process and job performance;

  • displeasure with the outcome;

  • the lack or absence of support, praising or encouragement;

  • inflated expectations about the job or profession;

  • overestimation of your own merits or low self-esteem;

  • inability to overcome tough situations;

  • difficulties in certain life spheres;

  • steady pressure on behalf of executives or colleagues;

  • high requirements to yourself (perfectionism) and many other things.

You should realize what leads to emotional and physical exhaustion in order to take measures for preventing job burnout.

Burnout stages

Burnout stages

There are several theories defining burnout stages.

The German psychologist Matthias Burisch distinguishes six burnout stages.

  • Warning phase. Symptoms: refusal of non-work demands, social contact limits, tiredness, trouble sleeping, a sense of irreplaceability and excessive activity.

  • A phase of reducing your own part. At this stage, people blame others for their own failures, become indifferent, lose empathy and estimate different things cynically. Workers do not want to perform their professional duties and feel dissatisfaction with the job. They can violate the labor discipline, for example, leave the office earlier or return from a break later. At the same time, they focus on personal needs and worry that they are exploited.

  • Emotional reactions. The third burnout stage results in decreased self-judgment, apathy, unreasonable fears. People become intolerant and suspicious with constant guilt feeling. They can conflict with colleagues.

  • Destructive behavior phase. Characteristics: lack of concentration and initiative, inability to perform complicated tasks. They work inefficiently, deviate from professional discussions, refuse their favorite activities and feel bored. Other symptoms are poor imagination, avoidance of informal contacts and rigid thinking.

  • Psychosomatic reactions and weak immunity. The fifth stage affects the physical condition. Employees suffer from high blood pressure, pains, insomnia, tachycardia, sexual disorders and bad immunity. They fail to relax in their free time.

  • Frustration and life attitude. The final stage makes people helpless and despair. Life seems meaningless to them.

The US professor J. Greenberg emphasizes five burnout stages.

  • Employees like their activity and enthusiastically conduct all the objectives at the first stage. However, workplace stress eventually reduces their satisfaction and energy level.

  • Workers feel tired and apathetic at the next stage. Difficulty sleeping appears as well. The interest in work fells due to insufficient motivation and impetus. People can disengage from fulfilling their obligations and break the work discipline. Nevertheless, having a strong motivation, they can keep working, receiving energy from internal resources but damaging their health.

  • At the third stage, heavy workload exhausts employees and makes them ill. They suffer from oppression, irritancy and anger.

  • The fourth stage features the disease development resulting in the total or partial loss of productivity and pessimism. People fret over life quality dissatisfaction.

  • At the closing burnout stage, previous mental and physical disorders turn into the acute form. It leads to various fatal diseases.

Let’s examine the checklist of tips on overcoming the burnout syndrome.

checklist of tips on overcoming the burnout syndrome.

Download in PDF


With burnout advancing gradually, you should detect it at early stages and take measures for improving your condition. Thus, you will be able to stay productive and avoid potential health problems.

Do you want to discover more about efficient tools for combating burnout? Join w2 conference Moscow on April 28. Experts will tell you how to deal with workplace tiredness and improve personnel wellness.

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