From Burnout to Burnin

demoralizedBurnout is an established medical condition, and many professionals from various fields (e.g. psychologists, life coaches etc.) provide solutions to burnout victims. Burnout is the state where individuals have no more energy to keep doing their job effectively. The feeling is that of exhaustion, and they cannot make any more impact to the organization with their contribution. Some of the consequences are the emotional depletion, the loss of motivation to exert more effort, and reduced commitment to organizational goals. People suffering from burnout have a feeling of denial to work and to life. They have trouble communicating with colleagues, exhibiting cynical and negative behavior, their self-esteem deteriorates, as they feel their performance decreasing (even if this is their own perception which it is not always true), and they also have trouble getting out of bed and go for work (or do anything in general), while feeling disengaged. The rate of absence is increased when burnout appears. Burnout is not far from depression, and it may have serious implications to our physical and mental health. Burnout is caused by highly stressing environments and/or excessive workload. Burnout can be treated by stress management, and removing work stressors. Exhaustion can be alleviated by taking some time off and making other activities. Our brain is drained out of energy, and there is no time, due to work conditions, to replete our resources. So, taking some time off is the first step. The next steps are to change the work context. Roles must be clear and unambiguous, and perhaps lessened. Processes must be reconsidered and reorganized if need be. Stress and exhaustion often appear because of a bad organization system. The bottom line is that burnout is a serious conditions with detrimental effects on the individual and the organization, but it can be dealt with if appropriate actions are taken. Burnin however is a more radical condition that once occurred the worker might not recover again, and the most probable solution is retreat. I introduce the term burnin in order to pinpoint the inner state of demoralization and depreciation of the core organizational values. It is not a state of mind, it is a state of ethos and ethics. It is the moment that the organization has lost the employee’s respect, and they get misaligned regarding their working values. Employee’s psyche confronts a deep conflict, a morale dissonance which is a gap between organizational and individual working beliefs, values, and practices. The person feels unmotivated for a deeper reason than a simple energy depletion, which is the case of burnout. Energy can be regained when taking the right actions, but our beliefs and values are difficult to change mostly because we are unwilling to do so. The employee then cannot get aligned with their organization, their performance decreases, and the feeling of frustration is overly apparent. The individual feels mostly unappreciated, and isolated. Communication is difficult basically because they don’t speak the same “language” with management. They cannot implement what they are assigned with or they cannot complete it the way they want. It is quite difficult to recover from that situation. Alternative solutions are the reestablishment of the working relationship either by changing the person(s) or the context. Changing the person means that either the employee or the manager/leader are willing to change their attitudes towards work (something admittedly difficult). Changing the context means that they change the form of cooperation. For instance it might be decided that the employee will work more freely. Employees, in that case, could be seen as independent working units working in their own time and their own way of working. The only prerequisite is that they deliver a mutual approved and accepted outcome, on a specific time, the process notwithstanding.   Antonis Gavalas, MSc