Three Things About Worker Burnout

Over the past couple of months we have highlighted issues related to worker burnout. This issue seems to be an increasing problem in today’s workplace. In this article, we want to highlight additional issues related to burnout, a possible unanticipated consequence it may have, and a potential solution that could help reduce the factors causing burnout.

  1. Some of the causes of burnout may be surprising.

We have talked about some causes of burnout in earlier posts, but a recent article brought some other issues to the forefront. The web site presented an excellent article about the issue, noting that stress alone is not a cause of burnout. It notes that how we or our organizations manage stress is a significant factor which interacts with our personality type or lifestyle issues.

Among the risk factors cited in the article are

  • Unreasonable time pressure and unmanageable workload. In some professions, time pressures and workload problems are caused by external factors. Still, effective planning in the organization can help mitigate the problem.
  • Lack of communication and support from a manager. Sometimes we blame workers for their burnout and believe overcoming the feelings are the sole responsibility of the worker. The article instead cites the importance or managerial support as a psychological buffer against stress. They note employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.
  • Lack of role clarity. When expectations are not clear or are inconsistent, employees will be frustrated or may become exhausted simply by trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Unfair treatment. Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout.

The article is well worth reading, and adds additional perspectives to burnout issues.

  1. Sometimes efforts to improve things can have unintended consequence.

This week the first 2019 economic sector reports began to appear. One report showed some interesting preliminary results, such as a larger percentage increase in earnings for workers than managers.

Several analysts grabbed on a fact regarding wages that showed some workers who received raises due to increases in the minimum wage ended up choosing to work fewer hours.

The implication from these articles was since workers were getting more per hour they could work fewer hours and still get the same amount. This conclusion is based on the ridiculous theory that low-wage workers must be stupid, lazy, or both.

The problem we see is the desire of some reporters (and many readers) to present the quick, easy answer. It fits their paradigms, is easy to understand, and may be horribly flawed.

While I am sure there may be some workers who will choose this unwise option, there are even more likely reasons that represent the thinking of more workers. Try this alternate theory:

Many workers who are paid only the minimum wage or close to it are working part-time jobs, many with variable shifts and no benefits. To house and feed their families they have to work two (or often three) jobs. They work long hours and have limited time to spend with their families resulting in a decreased quality of life.

Now, with higher minimum wages, these employees can afford to cut back on that second (or third) job and be able to spend more time at home. They continue to work, often in excess of the traditional 40-hour week, but now can have a living wage without the excess number of hours.

The employers in these organizations report another unanticipated outcome from increasing the minimum wage. As some employees choose to work fewer hours, there are now move hours available for the remaining part-time employees and/or openings for new workers. This is another positive outcome from raising the minimum wage. Burnout is decreased and employees have more options.

  1. Another suggestion to help prevent worker burnout – one we like!

We often see “Self-Care” suggested as an option for dealing with burnout. Employees are asked to develop strategies for dealing with workplace stress, variable shifts, exhaustion, and the various other factors that contribute to the problem. It assumes the workers should be solely responsible for overcoming the problem.

Kayla Blando in the website offers another suggestion. She proposes organizing or joining a union as a solution to burnout.

Ms. Blando notes, “Being in a union means that you and your coworkers work together to fix the problems at your workplace, and then negotiate for solutions with management. Whether this means collectively bargaining for raises, vacation time, better healthcare or more clear-cut job duties, there is an undeniable strength in a union”

Researchers have shown a clear relationship between the decline in the unionized workforce and the decline of the middle class, increasing loss of wages when compared to those paid to management, and the growth in the concerns leading to burnout.

As Ms. Blando concludes, “Your best defense against burnout isn’t self-care, it’s joining together with your colleagues to build power collectively at your workplace.”

That’s it for now about issues related to burnout, but we would love to hear your thoughts. Have you or your colleagues felt burnout in your job? What factors contribute to the problem? How has it impacted your workplace? Let us know your answers and we will feature them in a future blog.

In the meantime, if you or your organization want to consider strategies for helping with these concerns contact us at Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
This entry was posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Employee Involvement, Worker Voice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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