Pat Katz Pat Katz
Pat Katz Pat Katz




PAUSE -12.04- Fried, Fritzed, or Frazzled? The Shifting Shape Of Burnout

REFLECTION: Noting any burnout in your workplace or yourself? I’ve been dipping into a bit of recent research on burnout that suggests this phenomenon is not just a one trick pony – that there are at least three different forms that burnout takes.

The shorthand descriptions look like this. The Frenetic push hard and wear down. The Underchallenged grow bored and go numb. The Worn Out become discouraged and give up. Here’s a profile for each.

Frenetic folks are challenged by high expectations and limited resources – ambitious by nature. Those who respond in this way keep pushing themselves and others harder – redoubling efforts, refusing to acknowledge failure or limitations, neglecting health and personal lives, growing more anxious and irritable as time goes by. Recognize anyone like this?

Finding the work to be less than challenging, and experiencing very little personal growth or professional development because of it, the Underchallenged end up simply going through the motions. They don’t feel overburdened, just empty, and devoid of enthusiasm. Recognize anyone like this?

Noting a huge gap between effort invested and rewards received, and sensing they have little control or influence over the situation, the Worn Out back off on effort to match the disappointing level of reward. They believe that what they do doesn’t make much of a difference, and may appear apathetic and cynical. Recognize anyone like this?


ACTION: What these profiles suggest is that because there are multiple causes of burnout and different ways it surfaces in behaviour, that there are a variety of ways we might prevent it – or address it when it appears.

Some of these actions are ones you might consider, depending on the cause.

For the Frenetics:  Address the balance of load. Create an appropriate relationship between tasks demanded of folks and resources provided. Promote self care. In the face of too-muchness, encourage those determined souls who just keep pushing to step away and engage in renewal and a life outside of work.

For the Underchallenged: Invest in learning. See how the work might be made more interesting, or find new challenges that could be placed in front of those who are bored out of their gourd. Encourage variety and choice – in tasks, speed of work, where and how people work.

For the Worn Out: Draw attention to purpose and extend appreciation. Let them know where and how their efforts matter. Model the way by listening with care, and really trying to make positive change on the issues that arise.

Who might be on the verge of burnout in your circle? What’s the most likely cause? What action on your part could make a helpful contribution to their lives today?


QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Nothing more helpful than a solid definition:  Burnout is a distinct pattern of workplace stress in which exhaustion, combined with doubts about the value of one’s work or the ability to do it, lead to depressed mood and diminished performance.  – APA (The American Psychiatric Association)

Unless it’s a graphic description:  Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker.  – Sam Keen


RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Useful info in this Depression In The Workplace article from Global Business Magazine.


READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s message, Can You Shine A Little Light In The Dark, Pause reader LC writes: “We can usually find a way to tell people they are appreciated. We live in the country and one summer the highway we travelled every day was under construction. In such a situation, you begin to recognize the flag people and other workers and wave as you pass. On one particularly hot day, my son was on his way home from work. He decided to express appreciation to those workers by stopping and leaving a big plastic bin filled with soft drinks and bottled water on ice. Years later, that son is now a husband and father and continues to display that generous and caring spirit.”

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Appreciation, Life Balance, Overload & Overwhelm, Pause E-zines

2 Responses to “PAUSE -12.04- Fried, Fritzed, or Frazzled? The Shifting Shape Of Burnout”

  1. Rob Spencer

    I can see myself shifting between Frentic and Worn Out (like some sort of macabre pendulum). One action that might need to be considered for the Underchallenged would be change of venue or job. Sometimes you can only freshen up a rotten situation superficially and in order to truly fix the problem, you have to leave and start over.

  2. Pat Katz

    Rob, I’m sure you’re not the only one who finds him or herself on a pendulum. Too much frenzy is often a one way ticket to Crash ‘n’Burn. And yes, sometimes a change of venue is in order. Interestingly, in the more complete description of what you see in the Underchallenged, one of the elements is flirting with thoughts of greener pastures elsewhere.

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