The Truth About Job Burnout

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Job burnout has been conceptualized in many different ways; however the most cited definition is “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of others, and a feeling of reduced personal accomplishment” (Lee and Ashforth, 2009, p.743). It is a condition that is on the rise among workers today. Burnout is a type of stress response most commonly displayed by individuals who have intense contact and involvement with others during the course of their normal workday. Traditionally, burnout was seen as occurring solely within the “helping” professions such as nursing and education; however, it is now seen as a widespread issue. Originally, burnout was studied from an emotional arousal perspective; however, empirical research began to emerge in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Cordes and Dougherty, 1993). This review will look at the 3 major components of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Additionally, the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the relationship between burnout and stress will be reviewed. Finally, the major causes and consequences of burnout will be presented.

This first component, or phase, of burnout is emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion is considered to be the most important of the three components. It is “characterized by a lack of energy and a feeling that one’s emotional resources are used up. This . . . may coexist with feelings of frustration and tension . . .” (Cordes and Dougherty, 1993, p.623). Leiter and Maslach (2008) note that emotional exhaustion “refers to feelings of being emotionally overextended and drained by one’s contact with other people” (p. 297). This emotional exhaustion can manifest itself in physical characteristics such as wak...

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...gical Concerns. Group and Organization Studies, 14(1), 23-32.

Cordes, C. L., & Dougherty, T. W. (1993). A Review and an Integration of Research on Job Burnout. Academy of Management Review, 18(4), 621-656.

Koeske, G. F., Kirk, S. A., & Koeske, R. D. (1993) Coping with Job Stress: Which Strategies Work Best? Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 66(4), 319-335.

Lee, R. T., & Ashforth, B. E. (2009). On the Meaning of Maslach’s Three Dimensions of Burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(6), 743-747.

Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (2008). The Impact of Interpersonal Environment on Burnout and Organizational Commitment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 9(4), 297-308.

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2011). The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to do About It. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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