Job burnout is a taboo topic. It’s easier to pretend that everything is fine and sweep it under the carpet than to talk about it. Of course, we can manage. Not being able to manage is perceived as weakness, and nobody wants to be thought of as weak. As a result, many people pretend to be strong, confident and satisfied, while feeling like a wreck. What is job burnout then? In this post, I will talk about the signs of job burnout and its consequences.
I wrote this post to warn you. I started experiencing burnout only after one year of working in the insurance industry. Initially, I believed I was doing something purposeful, and that success was only a matter of time. As a beginner entrepreneur, I worked over 12 hours a day to get things done, but seldom complained about how tough it was. I wanted to offer my customers the best possible counseling service and sacrificed my social and personal life for the sake of their satisfaction.
Overtime, it turned into a routine. It became clear to me that no matter how hard I tried and how much effort I put into my offers, most people wouldn’t appreciate what they got. Constant problems, last minute quotation requests and dealing with the whole paperwork around sales put me under a lot of pressure. I lost my initial enthusiasm and purpose.
Back then, I didn’t realize what was going on with me. I was tired, but craving for financial success, and wanted to get it or die trying. Eventually, I had to get hired in another insurance company to make ends meet, and that’s when the real trouble began. Routine tasks, no feedback, poor atmosphere, and no appreciation for my work made me reach the point where I’m now: feeling like a wreck, and spending half of my money on mental health services at the age of 27.
What is job burnout exactly?
Occupational burnout syndrome is a type of chronic psychological stress caused by overworking. According to Christina Maslach, an American scholar who studies burnout, it’s a three-dimensional syndrome which involves:
- emotional and physical exhaustion
- ineffectiveness and growing feeling of inadequacy.
Job burnout is not something that appears out of the blue. It’s a slow and complex process, which is often downplayed until it becomes severe. Whether you will burn out or not, it depends on many factors, including not only characteristics of work environment but also your personality, your expectations and the way you handle stressors. It may occur after a spectacular success, or after a bigger failure at work. It may concern those who achieved a considerable success as well as those who believed they achieved very little.
Job burnout it difficult to spot, because it’s symptoms are often interpreted as a temporary crisis that will pass once we get something done.
But it won’t.
Signs Of Job Burnout
You should feel concerned if you observe at least some of these symptoms in your own behavior or thinking:
#1. Feeling exhausted most of the time
You feel tired and lack energy most days, but only realize how stressed and tired you are on weekends. Friday evening is a relief you wait for since Monday morning. Chronic fatigue is one of the earliest signs of job burnout.
#2. Poor work performance
Physical and mental exhaustion lead to a host of cognitive problems. You’re noticing that you have become forgetful and have difficulty focusing on anything. You miss deadlines, fail to achieve targets, fuckups pile up. It takes you forever to get things done because of your poor attention, which causes more stress., exhaustion, and impairs your performance even further.
#3. Frustration and cynicism
This is probably the most visible job burnout symptom, especially in those who happen to be directly engaged in customer service. Clients have become your enemies and you wish them all dead. They are brainless, greedy creatures who only generate more first world problems for you to solve. As I have already written, my mental health was ruined by insurance business. I also lost all my empathy for people who presented claims and felt like they deserved it.
#4. Constant conflicts at work and at home
You have little patience and flexibility, which results in many conflicts and arguments with your co-workers. Your family life is also affected because after work you take it out on your children and partner.
#5. Ruminating job-related issues
You definitely think too much of your work when you’re not there. So much, that it affects your sleeping patterns. In the evening, accumulated stress doesn’t let you fall asleep, and in the morning you hit snooze several times and often oversleep, which adds even more stress to your already stressful life.
#6 Avoiding the job topic
When asked about how’s your job, all you manage to mumble is “Eeehm, fine”. You really hate talking about your job and being asked what you do for a living.
#7. Giving up your social life and hobbies
To be quite honest, your social life is inexistent. In the evening, you do nothing but stare at the TV or browse Facebook. When was the last time you met with friends or spent quality time with your family? You’ve given up on your hobbies because you are too tired to feel any pleasure from them.
#8. Reduced creativity
You don’t even make an effort to come up with an innovative solution or an original idea at work. Being a tiny cog in the corporate machine, you have no influence or control over the situation anyway. You’ve surrendered to routine, and don’t give a shit about being creative.
#9. Feeling disillusioned about your job
Even if , once, you believed in what you were doing, now it seems completely purposeless. The only people who benefit from what you do are the wealthy shareholders, who get richer and richer while you sweat blood.
#10. Feeling of being exploited
You can’t help feeling like a slave. Everything’s on your head, and no matter how much effort you put in your job, nobody notices it. The more you give, the more they expect you to give but never pat on the back for the outcome you delivered.
Procrastination is, in fact, one of the signs of job burnout. Postponing and delaying forever the most unpleasant tasks, you subconsciously sabotage yourself, giving your employer reasons to fire you.
Feeling jealous is another not-so-obvious symptom of career burnout. You can’t stand seeing your friends showing off their photos from their last holiday in Bali on Facebook and avoid anyone who’s sharing his thoughts on how wonderful life is. As a sailor working for yacht insurance company, I envied my clients that they could enjoy themselves sailing, while I was stuck in my office with no perspective of vacation… It added to my overall frustration and dissatisfaction.
#13. Irritability and uncontrolled anger
You’re like a ticking time bomb. Your co-workers tiptoe around you to avoid your rage outburst because EVERYTHING pisses you off. A phone ringing, a printer failure, somebody knocking on the door… anything may be the cause of your eruption, so it’s better to stay away from you whenever possible. The atmosphere in your office is really tense.
#14. Not taking proper care of yourself
You can’t recall the last time you hit the gym, went running or did something healthy for your body. You don’t feel like cooking and feed on fast food and sandwiches most of the time. Alcohol, drugs, or medication have become your way of coping with stress and numbing your negative emotions.
#15. Daydreaming about quitting
What would your life be if you slammed the door and never came back? You keep fantasizing about different scenarios every day but never take action to change anything, or find another job.
#16. Loss of motivation to work and live
Regardless of how much you likes your job in the beginning, now it bores you to death. You feel like you’re wasting your life energy and potential on something that doesn’t benefit anyone but the company owner or shareholders. The only thing that keeps you there is your mortgage or children who need to be fed.
#17. Physical symptoms
You suffer from recurring headaches, stomachaches, backaches, muscle tension, chronic fatigue… You keep your physician busy but never get diagnosed with anything specific. But these signs of job burnout may eventually develop into something really serious, such as heart disease.
Consequences Of Job Burnout
Which signs of job burnout do you recognize in your behavior? Maybe it’s time to do something about it before it gets too late. Take it seriously – your whole life is at stake. Burnout leads to depression, and then it gets really hard to regain that spark of enthusiasm. Some people end up with substance dependence and heart diseases – this is really serious!
Burnout can happen to anyone, especially those in service industries, and it does not mean you are weak, incapable, or unfit for your job. It’s even possible to suffer from burnout when you love your job.
How to get off the hamster wheel and deal with early burnout symptoms? First of all, acknowledge that you are on the best way to burnout and need a break and claim your unused vacation from the previous year.
- Don’t avoid naming the problem. Negation or belittling your difficulties won’t help to overcome them.
- Face the enemy. Find out exactly what makes you feel the way you feel, who makes you feel negative emotions and how his action influences your attitude.
- Define your values. Are the things you find important really essential?
- Remind yourself about your successes, achievements you’re proud of. Not only at work, but also in your whole life.
- Get some time just for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a month off. Half and hour a day you spend walking or meditating is okay too.
- Do what gives you satisfaction and energy after work. Don’t count on appreciation or acceptance of those who never gave it to you.
- If you feel you need some regeneration, don’t set yourself more and bigger goals. Just take a rest.
My Final Word To Those Who Need A Change…
However, if you never liked your job, whatever the reason, it may be time to try change something in your life. We spend at work at least one-third of our life, and if you subtract time for sleep, it’s more than a half! For me, doing something I like and engage in is of utmost importance. Hence this blog. It’s perfectly possible to derive pleasure from work if it’s the right kind of work with the right people. If you think that earning a living blogging may be a good idea for you, click here to find out more about it.
I wish you best of luck in your endeavors.