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Author: Farkas, Judit Eszter

Burnout

Defining burnout
Stress can have harmful effects on individuals’ mental and physical
health, as well as negative effects on organizational outcomes. These outcomes
can be impaired performance and turnover. The main source of occupational
stress is role stress. Role stress has two components: Role ambiguity and role
conflict. Role ambiguity refers to both the unpredictability of performance
consequences as well as information deficiency according to expected role
behaviors. Role conflict refers to incongruent expectations, and it can occur
between and within roles too. Role stress is linked to various dysfunctional
outcomes, like uncertainty, job dissatisfaction and intentions to leave the
organization. The most often examined consequence of role conflict and
ambiguity is experienced burnout.
Nowadays burnout is regarded as a serious problem. People who suffer it
may experience reduced quality of life, and burnout may have a negative effect
on family life and working life as well.
Burnout is often defined as a unique type of stress syndrome,
characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and diminished
personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion is characterized by lack of
energy and feeling that one’s emotional resources are used up due to excessive
psychological demands. Depersonalization (aka dehumanization) is
characterized by the treatment of others as objects rather than people through
cynical, callous, and uncaring attitudes and behaviors. The diminished personal
accomplishment is the third component, characterized by a tendency to evaluate
oneself negatively due to the failure to produce results.
Burnout is a process, and so the extreme degree of burnout is the end-
state of a process, which develops over a considerable length of time. So it is
appropriate to talk about degrees of burnout. Maslach suggested that emotional
exhaustion appears first in the shape of excessive chronic demands that drain
the individual's emotional resources, and that it then develops as a defensive
coping strategy which limits the person's involvement with others. When
individuals recognize the discrepancy between their current attitudes and prior
opportunistic expectations, they may experience a sense of inadequacy in their
ability to relate to people and perform their job.

Burnout is examined mostly among helping professions like social


workers, nurses and teachers. Hellesøy,
Grønhaug and Kvitastein (2000)
examined the burnout among off-shore oil industry workers. They made reports
and then factor analyzed the reported problems. They found four dimensions:
• Alienation: Feeling lonesome even together with other people; feeling
that nobody cares or understands.
• Focus loss: Difficulties in deciding, concentrating or remembering.
• Depression: Feeling tense; becoming easily irritated, feeling easily hurt.
• Worry: worrying about home affects work; difficulties to sleep due to
worry.

Hellesøy et al identified the three components (emotinal exhaustion,


depersonalization and dimnishing personal accomplishment) of burnout (of
course with different names but the same content), that indicates that the
dimensions observed by helping professions may have external validity. It
means that they may be generalized to other industries and occupation. The
fourth found dimension (Worry) indicates that certain burnout components may
be industry or profession specific.

Measuring burnout
Burnout can be measured with various tests. One is Burnout
Questionnaire by Pines et al. This contains 21 item on five-point scale. In this
questionnaire there are statements like that: „I am emotionally drained“ or „I
feel depressed“.
Other often used test is the Maslach Burnout Inventory by Maslach and
Jackson. This inventory comprises 25 itmes on a five-point scale, which are in
three subscales: exhaustion, cynicism and professional efficacy.
Burnout can be assesed by the method of interview as well.

Effects of burnout
Researchers have linked burnout to a broad variety of mental and health
problems. Burnout may lead to the deterioration of family and social
relationships, increased turnover and absenteeism and decreased quality and
quantity of job performance.
According to the results of the
Finnish
Health
2000 Study burnout and
depressive symptoms are correlated, while burnout is statistically differentiated
from depressive symptoms. Analyzing the data
Ahola,
Honkonen,
Isometsa,

Kalimo,
Nykyri, Aromaa and
Lönnqvist (2005) found that half of the study’s
participants with severe burnout had a depressive disorder (based on the DSM –
IV criteria). The risk of having a depressive disorder was greater when burnout
was severe compared to mild or no burnout. Moreover, participants who had a
current major depressive episode reported serious burnout more often than
those who had had a major depressive episode earlier. The probability of
having a depressive disorder rises with the level of burnout.
Honkonen,
Ahola,
Pertovaara, Isometä,
Kalimo,
Nykyri,
Aromaae and

Lönnqvist (2006) found analyzig the datas of the the
Finnish
Health
2000
Study that burnout is associated with musculoskeletal diseases among women
and with cardiovascular diseases among men. The frequency of
musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease or any other physical diseases
increased with the experienced level of burnout. These associations are not
explained by sociodemographic factors, health behavior, or depression.
Physical illnesses are associated with all three dimensions of burnout.

Individual differences
According to Perrewé,
Hochwarter,
Rossi,
Wallace,
Maignan,
Castro,

Ralston,
Westman,
Vollmer,
Tang, Wan and Van
Deusen (2002) findings
general self efficacy is negatively associated with burnout. Which is not
suprising by the fact that newcomers to an organization who have high level of
efficacy expereince less anxiety, cope better with situational demands and are
more statisfied with their job.
Married people report lower level of burnout than others, while young
people report higher level of burnout than older. Regarding the datas of the
Finnish Health 2000 Study the relative risk of having major depressive disorder
with severe burnout is greater for men altought there is no gender difference in
the level of burnout. This may reflect the importance of work in men’s life.
Using the Big5 model researchers found that extraversion is negatively
related to cynicism, while conscientiousness and agreeableness are positively
related to professional efficacy (so negatively related to reduced professional
efficacy). Neuroticism is positively related to exhaustion and cynicism and is
the most influential burnout predictor. (Kim, Shin and Schwanger, 2009)
High burnout countries are (by the self reported level of experienced
burnout) Japan, Fiji, Hong Kong and Brazil, while low are France, Israel,
Germany, China and United States.
Risked popularities are the helping professions (teachers, nurses, social
workers), but as well as the workers of off-shore oil industry, public service
lawyers, female human service professionals and so on. Nowadays the
workloads and demands grow so burnout may be discovered in new areas of
professions.

Prevention, intervention
Such job resources as social support, autonomy and control coping, help
reduce job demands, and this way help to decrease the feeling of burnout.
There are also different kinds of intervention programs as well. Awa,

Plaumann and
Walter (2009) examined different intervention programs. The
examined intervention programs contained:
• professional skill training, clinical supervision
• cognitive behavioral training, counseling
• relaxation using brain machines
• adaptive coping, refresher courses
• psycho-social skill training
• recreational music making (RMM)
• online counseling and supervision ‘interapy’
• analytic and experimental psychotherapy
• communication training
• relaxation training
• autogenic training
• laughter therapy
An intervention program can be person-directed, organization-directed or
combination of both intervention types. About 80% percent of the programs
reviewed by Awa et al led to positive effects on burnout while 20% had no
positive effects or depreciation in burnout or some core component was
registered. 82% of all person-directed interventions led to a significant decrease
in burnout or positive changes in its risk factors. The effects last up to 6 month.
All the combined intervention led to positive effects in burnout, 80% of these
programs effects last up to 1 year. The intervention programs, which include
refresher courses, resulted in longer lasting positive effects on burnout.

Reference
Wendy
L.
Awa,
Martina
Plaumann,
Ulla
Walter:
Burnout
prevention:

A
review
of
intervention
programs Patient Education and Counseling
(Article in press, 2009)
Kirsi
Ahola,
Teija
Honkonen,
Erkki
Isometsa,
Raija
Kalimo,
Erkki

Nykyri,
Arpo
Aromaa,
Jouko
Lönnqvist
‐
The
relationship
between
job‐
related
burnout
and
depressive
disorders—results
from
the
Finnish
Health

2000
Study Journal of Affective Disorders (2005) 55-62
Odd
Hellesøy,
Kjell
Grønhaug,
Olav
Kvitastein
‐
Burnout:
conceptual

issues
and
empirical
findings
from
a
new
research
setting Scandinavian
Journal of Management 16 (2000) 233-247
Teija
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Kirsi
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Marja
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Erkki
Isometä,
Raija

Kalimo,
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Nykyri,
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Jouko
Lönnqvist:
The
association

between
burnout
and
physical
illness
in
the
general
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from
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(2006) 59-66
Hyun
Jeong
Kim,
Kang
Hyun
Shin,
Nancy
Swanger:
Burnout
and

engagement:
A
comparative
analysis
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the
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dimensions International Journal of Hospitality Management 28 (2009) 96-
104