Burnout According to Psychology Research (Podcast)

Listen to a short 5-minute Joanne Mallon’s podcast with my guest appearance summarizing the results on one of the psychological research on factors contributing to burnout.


Burnout Is Not Your Fault

Burnout is a part of our professional life right now, and I am afraid it is here to stay. Everyone has heard about someone with burnout, know someone who was burned out or, in the worst-case, experienced burnout themselves.

There is a lot of materials about burnout on the internet, advices how you can try to avoid and overcome it, stories about people whose burnout led to depression or serious physical condition. Excessive workload is considered the main cause of burnout, but accepting this workload is frequently linked to personality traits: low self-esteem, sensitivity, inability to manage stress, perfectionism, passivity, not caring for work-life balance. Hearing such claims people are reluctant to admit that they are burned out because they are afraid of being judged. Such narrative also implies that people have to “fix” themselves to overcome burnout.

It turns out not to be true. Whereas some traits may make a person more prone to it, BURNOUT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.  Burnout has been researched by psychologists for more than 50 years, and in one piece of research by Michael Leiter and Christina Maslach, they identified six work-life areas contributing to burnout. Low satisfaction in any of these areas will negatively impact your well-being, increase stress, erode motivation and passion for work.

Know WorkLife Factors

The first and most obvious is WORKLOAD. Excessive workload affects the mind and spill into personal life. But not having enough work, not having tasks that use your skills and your experience can also be extremely stressful.

The second factor is CONTROL. To be satisfied you need to have some level of independence, opportunities to make expert choices and decisions, without being micro managed.

The third area is about being adequately REWARDED for your work. We are talking not only about a salary, but also social recognition, praise, or opportunities to grow professionally.

The fourth factor is COMMUNITY. We are better off when we work with a supportive manager and friendly coworkers, in an environment where open communication and genuine caring is the norm. Toxic environment is always mentioned as one of a top reasons of stress at work.

The fifth one is FAIRNESS, and it is also pretty clear why lack of equality, justice, or respect demotivates us. Just imagine how you feel when you are overlooked in promotions or you see that less engaged people get all recognition and awards.

The final factor is VALUES. There are cases when we feel that our personal values are not aligned with the company values. It can be, for example, about honesty towards the clients, or attitude towards social and environmental issues.

Take Action

So, when you start feeling overwhelmed and physically or mentally exhausted, when you become cynical about your work and think you are not efficient and valuable, do not look only into yourself to overcome it. Surely it is always good to tame perfectionism and engage into meditation, fitness, or hobbies. But the crucial reason contributing to stress is a mismatch between your expectations towards your workplace and what the workplace offers. Only when you look closely at it you can find your way out.


M P Leiter  C Maslach, Six areas of worklife: a model of the organizational context of burnout (1999), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10621016/

Read more:

https://supportbymonika.com/science-of-burnout/: Burnout According to Psychology Research (Podcast)