4 factors that lead to employee burnout and how to avoid them

Employee burnout, job burnout, or simply burnout are terms that get thrown around often, and we've all heard them. Chances are, we've also experienced the symptoms. You feel tired all the time, irritated, unfulfilled, and unappreciated. After a while, it starts to resemble depression.

All you want to do is quit your job. You think about it all the time. But is it the right choice? Can you afford to? The feeling of dread starts on Sunday because you know you have another week ahead of you and you're wondering how you'll be able to muster the motivation to put on a brave face and go to the office where you have to do work that has stopped being enjoyable a long time ago.

This is a very discomforting state we usually associate with long periods of stress or short periods of intense stress. But studies show that it tends to be linked to specific types of stress, and some industries have much higher rates of burnout than others.


Work overload is the factor most often associated with employee burnout. Christina Maslach, social psychologist and co-author of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, defines it is as "job demands exceeding human limits." If you're forced to work at an unsustainable pace, the time it takes to complete your assignments is underestimated by your superiors, so you constantly have to stay late at the office, or your tasks are simply too difficult for your current level of ability and the allocated resources, you'll become chronically overloaded. Since you don't have enough time to rest and recover, after some time, it will start to hurt both your productivity and your health.

To address work overload issues, you need to prioritize, delegate, and learn to say no. People who are inclined towards perfectionism and pleasing others will try to go above and beyond to deliver the results they're asked for. If that's what you've been trying to do, focus more on time management and see what you can realistically achieve in the allocated time frame. Multi-tasking has been shown to decrease productivity by as much as 40%. Accept that you can only do so much.

You may try to take one task at a time and work longer if that's what it takes, but that doesn't give your body enough time to rest. Make sure you sleep at least 7 or 8 hours per night, and if stress has been disrupting your sleep pattern, try turning to natural solutions like Organic CBD Nugs.

Feeling Powerless

Do you feel like you have no control over the amount of work you're given, the type of tasks, and your schedule? Not having a say in decisions that impact your professional life leads to feeling powerless, and this has negative consequences on your mental health. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you first need to focus on what you can control. Can you talk to your employer to set clear boundaries and access to resources?

Make a list of things that interfere with your ability to do your job at an optimal level. Maybe you're always receiving emails and notifications you have to answer right away, and this breaks your concentration. Maybe you need to reach an agreement on what your priorities should be, or perhaps you need additional training, feedback, and support. Ultimately, your superiors are interested in getting results. When you do well, they do well. This means that they should appreciate your efforts to find strategies that can increase your productivity.


A working environment that lacks fairness can cause employees to feel unappreciated and disrespected.

Perceived unfairness is usually associated with:

  • Noticeable differences in workload or pay
  • Inequity in evaluations and who receives promotions
  • Unproductive conflict resolution practices

If you've noticed these issues in your company and it's exacerbating your burnout, see if you can find a way to speak out and receive appropriate credit for your work. Maybe someone else is getting access to additional resources that would also help you.

Point out (politely) in an email that you want to do your best work, and for that, you would need x, y, and z. If you work on a team project, ask to be mentioned as a contributor and insist on giving part of the presentation. When it comes to handling conflict, you can control your side of the conversation and propose alternative strategies.

Have you already tried that? Assuming you've done all you could, but the responses remain inequitable and others can't or won't improve the situation, you might want to consider changing your job. Studies show that lack of fairness not only decreases job satisfaction but also puts you at a higher risk of developing burnout. Maslach points out that what people care most about is seeing their employers do their best to maintain a fair and transparent environment (even if they don't always succeed).

Conflicting Values

A conflict of values happens when your personal values don't align with those of your company. An extreme example is working on a meatpacking plant while you hold strong beliefs regarding the humane treatment of all animals. Conflicts can also be less drastic: you care about the quality of your work while management is more focused on quantity, or you're not happy with the clients your company chooses to associate with. Our beliefs and values tend to be deeply ingrained, so you need to consider carefully how this mismatch affects your job satisfaction and how you feel about yourself.

You basically have two options: either you try to adjust your values to the organization you work for or leave and look for a more fulfilling job. You may be able to accommodate small discrepancies, but if your current position makes you feel ashamed or guilty about what you do, finding alternatives is preferable. It may be that your company's values don't match with what they advertised during the interview or have shifted along the way.

Burnout isn't just about stress and fatigue. It's a multifaceted issue with strong implications on your emotional and physical health. Only you can decide how much you can change, if it makes sense to try or if it's time to leave.

Image by Gerd Altmann, Pixabay