Burnout, or job burnout, is a form of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that arises in conditions of lasting, intense stress at work. It takes hold gradually and more or less quickens, depending on the individual’s ability to withstand stress. The process starts with an enthusiastic, very energetic attitude, and very high goals as well as a high level of personal investment in the job. When the efforts made do not meet one‘s personal demands and those of one’s employer, the individual doubles his or her efforts, but does not receive the expected recognition. Disillusionment and a strong feeling of frustration then follow, expressed as a loss of motivation and of prospects, as well as a multitude of negative sentiments. The afflicted person ends up being extremely discouraged, loses all interest in his or her work, family and friends, becomes aggressive, and is no longer able to work.
Burnout manifests itself through different physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. From a physical standpoint, it is characterized by continuous fatigue and a variety of problems, often stress-related: pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, persistent viral infections, skin problems, insomnia, weight fluctuations, etc. Emotionally, job burnout can cause a loss of motivation, frustration, anxiety, or despair. The individual has a negative attitude towards him or herself and towards others. At the cognitive level, burnout is expressed in particular as memory loss and difficulty concentrating. The person also becomes vulnerable to developing an addiction (alcohol, drugs, etc.). Just a few of these symptoms can serve as a warning and prompt a request for the aid of a health-care professional or a psychologist, in order to reassess personal and professional priorities, and to then take appropriate action.
Burnout can happen to any worker. It is the result of individual factors and work-related problems. Perfectionists, people with a high level of professional conscience or who are unable to delegate, along with introverts, people with low self-esteem, and the emotionally unstable are all at particular risk of burnout. At work, several factors can lead to burnout: intense stress, work overload, lack of independence, poorly-defined responsibilities, imbalance between the effort made and the recognition received (pay, esteem, respect, etc.).
In a company, the prevention of burnout is the responsibility of both the employees and the employer. This can be achieved primarily by reducing stress factors.
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