Job Burnout: Tips for Treating It

This column concludes a three-part series on dealing with job burnout. In the first post, ”Dealing with Job Burnout,” we provided resources for you to determine if you are experiencing job burnout. Part two covered the causes of burnout, and part three offers some solutions for job burnout.

 The stories in last column, “Causes of Job Burnout” may have scared you a bit. Heart attacks and suicidal tendencies should not be part of your career. And the statistic that job burnout is associated with a 79 percent increased risk of heart disease is a sobering one. The reality is that job burnout can be extremely dangerous. So what can you do about it?

To address many of the causes of burnout, you just need to get rid of stress, right? Not exactly. In addition to being a completely unrealistic goal, a certain amount of stress is a good thing. It can spur you on to greater achievement; it can be a powerful force to drive you to accomplish great things.

The best way to deal with job burnout is to recognize when it’s approaching and take time for a break. Head it off at the pass. If you began to feel some of the symptoms I mentioned in part one of this series, such as trouble sleeping, feeling disillusioned, increased irritability, take action to give yourself a break. If taking a few vacation days is not possible, at least take off an afternoon and engage in an activity that relaxes you.

I deal with a stress every day with my clients and their complicated stressful issues. However, I get up each morning with a smile and anxious to go to work. I cycle 50 or so miles and workout in a gym for several hours a week to break the stress cycle. We each need to find what works. Yoga, hiking or long beach walks might work for you.

You can also explore new ways of clearing your mind. News broadcaster Dan Harris was filling in on “Good Morning America” when he suffered a major panic attack on air. As he says of the most embarrassing day of his life, “I freaked out in front of five million people.”

Initially a total skeptic, he tried meditation. He had such success with it, he wrote a book about it, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story.”

Here are two other tips from Harvard Business Review from the article “Three Ways to Beat Burnout.”

  • Manage Your Work. Some things to try include delegating, prioritizing better and getting more resources to handle your job. Maybe you say yes too often, and need to let others handle some of your responsibilities.
  • Do the “Right Work.” Burnout is sometimes not about how much work you have, but the type of work you are doing. If your work is just not fulfilling for you, tips for managing your time or reducing stress aren’t going to work.

Sometimes the only answer for job burnout is to switch jobs. Or careers. If you are suffering from job burnout because you are unfulfilled, bored, under-challenged or in a job that just isn’t a good fit for you and you are unable to change the situation at your current company, it’s time to start looking.

Just remember to take the lessons you learned from the causes of your job burnout and make sure the situation at your new company will be different. For example, if you suffered from job burnout because there was limited upward mobility or your values weren’t in line with those of your company, gather as much information as possible on the new employer in those areas.

The main thing to remember about job burnout is that it can be a serious condition. So don’t ignore it — deal with it.

Causes of Job Burnout

This is part two of a three-part series on dealing with job burnout. In the first post, ”Dealing with Job Burnout,” we provided resources for you to determine if you are experiencing job burnout. Part two will cover the causes of burnout, and part three offers some solutions for job burnout.

I was interviewing for a job to take over as CRO with the owner of an athletic shoe company. He owed the bank millions of dollars, and as I was speaking with him I could see the stress on his face and hear it in his voice.

“Let me handle this,” I said. “You look like you could have a heart attack.”

But he declined to hire me, assuring me that he was only in his forties, and he could handle it himself.

Not long after that, I got a call from the hospital. Three days after our meeting, he was standing in line at the Varsity to order a chili dog when he had a massive heart attack. Lucky for him, some EMTs were in line next to him and took him directly to the hospital, where he immediately had bypass surgery. He was calling from his hospital bed to let me know that he wanted to hire me.

Another client, who was CFO of a university, was equally stressed and hated his job. I had been there just one day when he had a massive heart attack. He lived, but never came back.

Sadly, these types of situations are not uncommon. And I’ve seen worse — two attempted suicides and one actual suicide.

These are extreme cases of job burnout, but good examples of what can happen if you don’t take steps to deal with the situation.

But how does job burnout happen? Chances are there isn’t just one cause, but several factors contributing to your condition.

An article in, “Are You Suffering from Job Burnout?” suggests there are three types of job burnout:

  • Frenetic burnout: You tend to overload yourself and work to the point of exhaustion. You may have been accused of being a workaholic.
  • Under-challenged burnout: You don’t feel challenged enough at work, you’re bored and don’t see an opportunity for personal development.
  • Worn-out burnout: You’ve been at the same company for years and no longer feel any satisfaction with your job.

In addition to feeling overworked, unchallenged and too frenzied, an article on, “Job Burnout: How to spot it and take action,” lists several other factors that can lead to job burnout. These include:

  • Lack of control. If you don’t have the resources to do your job and no ability to influence decisions, it could lead to job burnout.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Negative office politics and dealing with toxic personalities in the workplace can cause you to burnout. All that drama is exhausting.
  • Poor job fit for your skills and values. You may feel your best skills aren’t being utilized. You may also not agree with the way your company does business, and what values it seems to espouse.
  • Isolation on the job. If you do not get along with your co-workers or they seem to leave you out of activities, you may feel isolated and stressed.
  • Work-life imbalance. If your job leaves you little time to spend with family and friends or doing activities you enjoy, you could burn out more easily.

Certain people are more prone to job burnout than others. These include those people whose identity is so strongly tied to their work. Also, those in a helping profession, like counseling or teaching, can tend to suffer from burnout from all the constant demands made on them during the day.

If you are suffering from job burnout, you need to take action. Studies have shown that people identified with job burnout were 1.4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease. That risk increased to 79 percent for those most identified as being burned out, according to an article on, “Study: Job Burnout Associated with a 79% Increased Risk of Heart Disease.”

Your mental and physical health could be at risk if you don’t do something about job burnout. Come back for the last in this series, which will discuss solutions for job burnout.