Causes of burnout

It has been argued that burnout is more likely to happen when there is a mismatch between the nature of the job and the nature of the person who does the job. The www.stress.about.com (Scott, 2006) website helpfully separates the causes into three categories: Job factors, lifestyle factors and psychological factors. Why not have a read and consider which ones might be relevant for you personally.

JOB FACTORS
Unclear Requirements
If the job description isn’t explained clearly, or if the requirements are constantly changing and hard to understand, practitioners are at higher risk of burnout.
High-Stress Times with No “Down” Times
Many jobs and industries have “crunch times”, where practitioners must work longer hours and handle a more intense workload for a time. This can actually help people feel invigorated if the extra effort is recognised, appropriately compensated, and limited. It starts becoming problematic when “crunch time” occurs year-round and there’s no time for practitioners to recover.
Big Consequences for Failure:
People make mistakes; it’s part of being human. However, when there are dire consequences to the occasional mistake (like the risk of a serious further offence, for example), the overall work experience becomes much more stressful, and the risk of burnout goes up.
Lack of Personal Control
People tend to feel excited about what they’re doing when they are able to creatively decide what needs to be done and come up with ways of handling problems that arise. If restricted and unable to exercise personal control over daily decisions, practitioners can be at greater risk for burnout.
Lack of Recognition
Awards, public praise, bonuses and other tokens of appreciation and recognition of accomplishment go a long way in keeping morale high. Where accolades are scarce, burnout is a risk.
Poor Leadership
Depending on the leadership, employees can feel recognized for their achievements, supported when they have difficulties, valued, safe, etc. Or they can feel unappreciated, unrecognized, not in control of their activities, or insecure in their position.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS
Too Much Work With Little Balance
A life consistently working above your contracted hours with no down time is a classic high risk scenario for burnout. Those who devote all their time to work activities, and put other areas of their lives—like relationships, hobbies, and exercise—on hold, put themselves at higher risk of burnout.
No Help or Supportive Resources
Having the feeling that, ‘If I take a day off, things will fall apart,” causes a generally elevated sense of stress. We all need support, backup, and others we can offload responsibilities to if need be.
Too Little Social Support
In addition to needing people who can help us with responsibilities, we need people to help us shoulder the emotional burdens in our lives. Having someone to talk to about what stresses us, someone to play with when we have free time, and someone to understand us when times are tough, are all important and necessary aspects of social support.
Too Little Sleep
People don’t always realise the importance of this one, but if you don’t get adequate sleep, you are less able to handle stress, and you’re also less productive and suffer other consequences.
Too Little Time Off
Part of living a balanced lifestyle is having regular times off. Taking a holiday at least once a year can help you get into a different situation and remind yourself who and why you are—outside of your responsible roles.
Poor Leadership
Depending on the leadership, employees can feel recognized for their achievements, supported when they have difficulties, valued, safe, etc. Or they can feel unappreciated, unrecognized, not in control of their activities, or insecure in their position.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
Perfectionist Tendencies
Striving to do your best is a sign of a hard-working practitioner and can be a positive trait that leads to excellence. However, perfectionism can cause excessive stress and sometimes be crippling.
Pessimism
Pessimists tend to see the world as more threatening than optimists. They worry more about things going wrong, expect more bad things than good, and believe in themselves less.
Excitability
Some people are just naturally more excitable than others. They have a stronger response to stress, and it’s triggered more easily. There’s not much you can do to change your body’s chemistry, but you can practice tension relieving strategies that can help you calm down when you do get stressed.
Personality
‘Type A Personalities’ put people at an increased risk for cardiac disease and other health and lifestyle difficulties. The two cardinal characteristics are 1) time impatience and 2) free-floating hostility. Being ‘Type A’ (or working closely with someone who is) can cause additional and chronic stress, increasing burnout risk.
Lack of Belief in What You Do

Some jobs are poorly compensated, but supply great rewards in terms of making a difference in the lives of others and making the world a better place. For those who believe in what they’re doing, stress is less of a factor.

Having read the above, if you think you might be at increased risk of burnout, and want more information or would like to take informal tests:

http://stress.about.com/od/selfknowledgeselftests/a/burnout_quiz.htm

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_08.htm

Could I be at increased risk of burnout?

There is some evidence that staff working with offenders are at increased risk of burnout symptoms, particularly for those practitioners who are established in their roles but less experienced. In addition to the particular characteristics of personality disordered offenders which contribute to the difficulty, organisational factors – such as role conflict (enforcer versus carer) and lack of participation in decision-making – contribute to burnout.