Burn out, I think on some level we all have experienced. I am studying for my CCS (Certified Clinical Supervisor) and one of the areas I’m reviewing includes the identified stages of burn out by Edelwich and Brodsky. What I have found interesting about these stages every time I have read about them in the past is that the first stage involves “Enthusiasm“. This is described as a tendency to be overly available and to give a lot of oneself due to the motivation and excitement. I think many people forget when they are burned out that at one time they probably had an excitement for what is burning them out currently. A lot of time we start our work with a certain idealism or a vision of “how things could be”.
The next stages include “Stagnation“. This is described by stating “expectations shrink to normal proportions and person discontentment begins to surface”. Basically this happens when we have a desire to make something happen or to do our work a certain way and we get thwarted. Frustrations start to mount up as we realize we can’t do what we had set out to as easily as expected and we see no movement toward our goal or vision. This can happen when a company also doesn’t encourage collaboration and has a very dictatorship culture. Or this can happen when a person does not have a full understanding of the field they are going into and only see a small window of the bigger picture until they are actually doing the work. Other ways this could happen is that environmental factors such as unexpected reduction of supplies or resources occur that could be related to a natural disaster or unusual fluctuation in the economy.
The third stage is Frustration. This is described as “difficulties seem to multiply and the helper becomes bored, less tolerant, less sympathetic, and she or he copes by avoiding and withdrawing.” So what happens in stage 2 worsens. No relief or help is available or received and the goal/vision gets further and further away. At this point feelings of hopeless sink in and people start to give up or not care as much. This leads to the fourth stage.
Apathy. Apathy is characterized as “depression and listlessness”. At this point a person may have forgotten why they entered their line of work in the first place. They may seek help or quit job. Some may move on to a more severe form of depression/anger and become harmful to themselves or others.
I think the main point to take away from these identified stages is that the main culprit is a feeling of lack of control. There is much different companies can do to help a person prevent burn out. Some things include more collaborative style of decision making and planning in which you not only elicit feedback from your staff but they see you use it. Other things include having resources like EAP for staff to use to help them personally figure out how to take back control of their lives. Helping folks have more work/life/family balance like incorporating family events or exercise initiatives into the regular work day. Some people feel burnout b/c they feel they lost control in another area of their life so if they feel like work is taken over and the vision they had for the family or health is not coming to fruition they can feel burn out and project it onto the work place. Helping employees work on balancing work and home can be extremely helpful.
Individuals can also retake their lives back by indentifying their roles and what parts of their roles are not meeting their own vision and expectations. Next step would be examining this vision and expectations to see if they are realistic. If they are not then taking some time to develop more realistic expectations might be in order. If they are realistic then breaking the steps toward reaching these goals into manageable and measurable pieces would be helpful. Once we know what the next step is, how we are going to do it, and when we are going to do it then we are back in control. The feelings related to burnout will start to diminish as we make progress.