One of the worst aspects of professional job related burnout (JRB) is the very real prospect of having to decide whether or not to stay in a toxic work environment or to seek employment elsewhere. This is never an easy decision at best. The choice is always complicated by the fact that JRB causes an individual to feel locked into their current circumstances somehow.
Okay, so you hate your job. You look forward only to the weekends and you despise the thought of going back to work on Monday. At work you feel spent, cynical, and ineffective — the three principle hallmarks of burnout. But how do you know when it is time to punch up the resume and plan your exit or to put your head down and suck it up?
First, you must decide if the underlying causes of your burnout lie within you or with your current work environment. Only 10% of the time does an employee burn themselves out. Ninety percent of the time it is the work environment which burns out the employee.
If the organization you work for is churning through employees, the majority of people you work with are unhappy and no one seems to care, it is probably the work environment which has burned you out.
I have reviewed the six major job-employee mismatches which cause burnout in previous posts — Work Overload, Lack of Control, Insufficient Reward, Breakdown of Community, Absence of Fairness and Conflicting Values. It is not only the number of mismatches present but their intensity which determines the presence and the rate of job related burnout in the workplace.
If you feel the problem lies with your work environment but you still value your work and the people you work with, it would be prudent to approach your employer about changing the work environment to eliminate any job-employee mismatches. Warning, this message is not always well received, especially if the employer or administrator feels workplace redesign will cost money.
It is all in the approach. You have a better chance of engaging your employer to change the work environment if you can show how workplace redesign can save money or increase profits. Take the example of employee turnover. Replacing just one employee can cost anywhere from one-and-a-half to three times their annual salary. Beyond employee turnover, eliminating the six major mismatches can:
- Increase employee satisfaction
- Decrease employee complaints
- Decrease employee absenteeism
- Improve customer satisfaction
- Decrease customer complaints
- Increase the quality of products and services
- Eliminate worker hostility and promote workplace harmony
- Decrease the threat of lawsuits
Added up, these can markedly decrease costs and increase profits. By eliminating the underlying causes of burnout businesses can transform from just surviving or dying to thriving.
Big picture, a business which fosters the six major mismatches or does nothing to address them will not survive. Sooner or later, that business will always implode. The reason is simple, it will not be able to retain good, hard working, loyal, dedicated and engaged employees and will eventually drive away its customers to competitors who do value their customers and employees.
If you have found yourself in a toxic work environment and you have attempted to convince your employer changes need to be made but find no one is listening, then you have a tough decision to make. Should I stay or should I go?
Many who are burned out will argue they are to old or have too much time invested with a company to change jobs. They will say the job market is too soft and it will be hard to find another job. They will talk about the need for more education rather than rely on their experience. They hope things will get better or think they’ll just hunker down and suck it up until they retire.
This fear based, self-limiting thinking is part of the burnout syndrome. Burned out people will actually prefer the misery of their current circumstances over the unknowns associated with finding a new job or career. They may feel they are in hell but at least they know the names of all the streets. It take less energy to stay put than to change and they are already running low on energy.
If conditions become so bad at work that the pain of staying outweighs the pain of leaving, the employee will leave. This is often under the worst of circumstances.
If you are the one suffering it is incumbent on you to realize it is your responsibility to make change happen. Life is too short. If there is a choice to end needless suffering, I am a big fan of making that choice.
Burned out individuals are at risk for workplace violence, anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol addiction, divorce, family problems, health problems and suicide. It isn’t just the employee who is affected by burnout. Everyone in their life around them is affected as well.
You can not live a life of passion driven purpose if you are burned out at work. A person’s natural set of unique talents and abilities can never be fully developed or deployed if creativity is being stifled. In a toxic work environment, a fully elaborated version of you becomes impossible.
If you are burned out at your current job and don’t know if you should make a job change or if you feel stuck and can’t, ask yourself these questions.
- Is there a real likelihood my work environment will change for the better?
- Is this the way I want to live the rest of my life, feeling burned out?
- Will it ever possible to work feeling burned out and be happy?
- Is my current job really that secure?
- Will it really hurt me, cost me anything or take that much time to look around and see what else is out there for me?
- What other parts of my life will improve if I take another job where I feel happy and fulfilled?
- Is this my preferred future or can I envision something different for myself, something much better and a closer fit to who I am?
- Who else but me can change my current circumstances for the better?
- Who is in the best position to decide what is best for me but me?
Asking yourself these questions and answering them honestly can go a long way toward getting you to a much better place in your work life. We spend a third of our lives working. Shouldn’t it feel meaningful?
You want to feel happy and engaged in your work. You want to feel you are fully exploiting your natural and unique set of talents and abilities. You want to grow, build, create, explore, and help others. You want to become a fully elaborated version of the authentic you. I just know it.
Are you feeling burned out and miserable at work but resistant or hesitant about making a change?
Originally Published on Clark Gaither
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