When I began researching workplace burnout nearly 20 years ago, I was met with skepticism and often received the following comments (accompanied with rolled eyes and sighs of exasperation):
- “Oh, it’s the employee’s problem if they can’t deal with stress!”
- “If an employee can’t take the heat, then they should just leave the kitchen!”
- “What do you mean by ‘burnout’ — isn’t everybody stressed?”
- “Employee burnout isn’t my problem — I’m a manager so I’m stressed, too!”
- “So what if employees are burned out? Our focus is on the bottom line.”
- “Burnout is just an excuse for poor productivity.”
But that all changed on May 27, 2019:
The World Health Organization has finally defined
burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.
In the International Classification of Disease, burnout is now considered to be a problem related to employment AND unemployment. In other words, WHO has identified burnout as a workplace-related condition.
Using Christina Maslach’s model, WHO identified the specific indicators for a diagnosis of burnout IF the worker meets the following 3 criteria:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from their job OR feelings of negativity or cynicism related to their job
- Reduced professional efficacy
According to this new classification, there are exclusions to a burnout diagnosis. These include disorders relating to adjustment, anxiety or fear-related, mood, and “disorders specifically associated with stress.” However, the classification of burnout (referred to as “burn-out”) as a medical disease can be game-changing for organizational leaders and managers.
As I speculated in my TEDx Talk in 2014, if burnout could finally be identified as a medical diagnosis, then American companies would be required to provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (amended) for their burned out workers.
And THAT would be a game-changer in the workplace.
Based on my own research,
employee burnout is the canary in the coal mine:
a symptom of something drastically wrong
existing within the organizational culture and workplace.
Quite frankly, in conversations with international colleagues who are addressing the workplace burnout issue in a diverse range of occupations and industries, the U.S. lags behind European governments and employers in acknowledging workplace burnout. Several countries in the E.U. have previously identified burnout as a workplace problem that negatively affects employees’ well-being — and they are actively seeking ways to avoid this problem.
In my own research, I discovered 10 organizational practices that can burn out employees:
- Poor leadership
- Lack of organizational caring
- Role and influence of other workers
- Politics or sabotage
- Lack of resources
- Over-emphasis on ROI
- Work overload
- Poor communication
- Unethical or illegal requests
- No vision nor direction
These are the 10 areas that I focus on when working with organizations to help avoid and overcome workplace burnout in order to build employee engagement and resiliency.
But what can you do as an individual employee if your company is not actively seeking ways to limit the workplace stressors that lead to burnout? Because burnout negatively impacts not only your emotional well-being but also your physical health and cognitive abilities, you can’t sit around waiting for your employer to suddenly understand the real impact that workplace stress is having on you.
The question, therefore, is:
What can you do to decrease your stress,
overcome burnout, and regain your edge NOW?
To celebrate the WHO’s monumental identification of burnout as an official medical diagnosis, I am offering a 25% discount on the following on-demand eCourses through the month of June (just use BURNOUT25 code when registering):
- How to Manage Workplace Stress and Avoid Burnout will provide you with the tools you need to move forward. Register now to get unlimited LIFETIME access plus free annual updates!
- Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do will help you determine whether you should stay in your current job or move on to another employer. Register now to get unlimited LIFETIME access plus free annual updates!
Now that workplace burnout has finally received the credibility that it has previously lacked, I believe that its classification as a medical disease will have profound impacts on work as we know it. Considering the prevalence of presenteeism and disengagement found in the modern workplace, the presence of employee burnout can be the canary in the coal mine that warns leaders to take a good hard look at their current management practices before they lose their only nonduplicatable advantage: their workers.
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.