Signs of a Job Burnout Should I Quit or Not?
In April 2014, Joey Tocnang died of heart failure while he was staying at the dormitory of the casting company where he worked. He had a wife and daughter in the Philippines, who he was three months away from seeing. He was 27 years old.
How did this happen?
Tocnang died because of continued and unchecked work-related stress. In other words, his employer and his workplace culture gave him so many responsibilities, forced him to be at work for so many hours, and allowed him so little sleep that his heart gave out. This tragedy is an extreme version of job burnout, but what is more tragic is that it is not unusual.
In Japan, employers work their employees to death so often that there is a word for it: karoshi. These deaths mostly take the form of some kind of cardiovascular disorder or suicide. The Japanese Labour Ministry claim that 2,310 Japanese people died from karoshi in 2015 alone. Not everyone agrees with the government's figures and some organizations put the figure as high as 10,000 per year.
Job burnout is the result of unresolved and long-term work-related stress
Job burnout, also known as occupational burnout, is the result of unresolved and long-term work-related stress. We all have difficult days at work, but job burnout refers to when that difficult day turns into a difficult month (or year or even decade).
In worst cases, job burnout can lead to death. Yet it can also lead to depression, bad diet, chronic fatigue, and a whole host of other ailments. People shouldn't need to die before a society or a workplace recognizes the dangers of job burnout.
Job burnout is not a formal mental disorder or illness. Rather, it is best understood as the result of ongoing and untreated stress at work which, in turn, is the cause of many serious health problems. In other words, we use the term "job burnout" because it's something which everyone can understand, but it is much more complicated than one 'illness'. Some people get depressed, others wind up with heart problems, and others find themselves chronically fatigued.
The cause of job burnout is not always the same, either. As a result, one study in Spain tried to categorize job burnout into different types. The, study had many limitations, but it did a good job of giving us some ways to classify different types of job burnout.
Causes of Job Burnout
With three different kinds of job burnout, it's hard to pin down just one cause. Workplace stress is a handy catch-all term, but here are some other things which can cause burnout:
n A lack of control or agency in your work, such as being forced to work unreasonable hours or do unpleasant jobs without any say on the matter.
n A dysfunctional workplace, such as when bullying and lying are rewarded but hard work is ignored or when micromanaging causes you to feel undermined and powerless.
n Mismatched values, such as when what you believe is morally correct and what your employer believes is morally correct is radically different.
n A bad social life, such as when you are unable to make friends or build relationships at work and/or you have no time or energy for friendships or relationships outside of work.
Signs of job burnout
This largely depends on the kind of job burnout which you are experiencing. Nevertheless, the general symptoms of job burnout are relatively easy to spot:
n Increased cynicism or disillusionment about the job.
n Lack of motivation to go to work or to start work once you get there.
n Increased irritability with co-workers, managers, clients, and/or customers.
n Dependence on food, alcohol, or drugs (recreational or prescribed) in order to get through the week or to 'unwind' at the weekend.
n Negative change in sleeping or eating habits.
n Otherwise unexplained physical pain such as headaches or backaches.
Recover from job burnout
In some ways, the answer to this question depends entirely on the person. After all, burnout is not the disorder itself but the cause of many other mental and physical disorders. It is for doctors and patients alike to diagnose the illnesses caused by burnout and to treat those.
In other ways, the answer to this question depends on the kind of burnout. If your burnout is caused by a frenetic pace, you should take on fewer hours and fewer responsibilities. If your burnout is caused by boredom, you should take on more hours and perhaps more responsibilities. Finally, if your burnout is caused by under-appreciation and a kind of weariness for the job, perhaps the best thing to do is to take a step back from it all.
With all that said, here are some things which everyone can do if they are worried about burnout.
Know your rights and take a stand
In the UK, and in many other countries, there are laws dictating the way employers can and can't treat employees. While these laws usually refer to physical safety, such as correct safety equipment, they also refer to working hours and the amount of mental stress employers are allowed to force onto their employees. Don't be afraid to take a stand.
Speak up and refuse to be exploited
It's one thing to know what you should be entitled to; it's another thing to actually have the courage to ask for it. Employees often worry that speaking out will lead to demotion or even dismissal. Though this is why labour unions and worker's rights are so important. If employers feel that they can treat employees like dirt, then they will. So don't let them.
Seek professional help
"Faking it" isn't an option for everyone. For people with mental health disorders, feeling-better requires a lot more than pretending to smile. Counselling and therapy are great but, if you can't afford that or aren't ready to make that leap, a lot can be achieved by talking to friends or family about your mental health.
When talking doesn't work, your doctors may also prescribe you with medication. "Self-medicating" (with alcohol or some other substance) is not the way forward. Doctors are trained in the art of neurochemistry; you are not. Using alcohol instead of prescribed medication to treat mental imbalance is a bit like trying to fix your laptop with a sledgehammer.
Get some sleep
Just as with exercise, most of the problems above can also be attributed to a lack of sleep. Scientists still aren't exactly sure why we sleep, but they are all agreed that we need it. Without sleep, our bodies suffer and become weaker. Different people need different amounts of sleep, but if you wake up feeling tired that's a surefire sign that you haven't had enough.
Take a short break from work
If you're reading all of this in agreement but feel that you simply don't have the time to sleep, eat, exercise, or even particularly enjoy your life, then perhaps it's time for a break. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so there's no reason that you can't take a sick day in order to avoid burnout. In fact, some employers are even beginning to experiment with so-called "duvet days". These aren't holidays, or sick days, they are days when you are allowed to ring in and say, "No thanks. Not today. I need to sleep, relax, and take some time for myself."
Should you quit or not?
If all else fails, then perhaps it's time to acknowledge the elephant in the room: your job is causing you burnout because it's a bad job. Whether this is because it's a bad company or because it's not suited to you is immaterial. If don't enjoy your job (or if your job is making you ill) and there's no way to fix it then... well... then there's no way to fix it.
It's okay to hate your job. Even if everybody else tells you that your job is great, remember that not everyone is motivated by the same things. Deep down, we know this. Yet we often make huge decisions not based on what we want but on societal expectations.So it's sometimes worth asking yourself very seriously what you want from life.
You might scoff at this notion, and maybe that's because you're in a job that you love or live a life that you love. However, if you find yourself working in a job that you hate and living a life that you are beginning to hate, ask yourself what really motivates you to work. If it isn't money, ask what you would do if you if you didn't have to worry about money.
If the answer to that question is some kind of dream job, then maybe it's time that you pursued that job. You might not have any experience or be any good at it now, but the only way to get good at something is to practice. That might mean starting at the bottom, perhaps not making as much money, or doing harder work, but if you're doing something that you love then that might not matter so much.
Whether you decide to leave your job or not, the important thing is that your job makes you happy. One size does not fit all in this content, so it's something which you'll have to figure out for yourself. However, when you do, you might just be able to live a life without job burnout.
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