In my previous post on burnout I’ve described the core symptoms of a burnout and the difference with depression. Burnout is an emotional response which is huge. You ask yourself who you have become, a concept known as depersonalization. Burnout is a very big problem in society overall, it isn’t preserved for certain professions but it can be seen in mental health care very often. As I worked for 13 years in the mental health field, I’ll zoom in on the outcomes of burnout in that specific field.
What can happen to a mental health worker and to the organization when burnout shows up?
We see poor quality of work. The work itself suffers. At a certain point, you’ll do the work but don’t check on it anymore. The problem is that you really care about your job but you don’t have the (mental) energy anymore to do all the steps that are required to say ‘I’ve done a good job’.
A low morale. Burnout is clustered in the workplace, it is contagious when nothing changes. I felt like a canary in a coal mine. Low morale can be spotted when people start to talk more negative about certain aspects of the job and they usually find each other quickly.
Absenteeism. People take more mental health days and more sick days. This puts more strain on the other employees. When you’re feeling good that doesn’t pose a problem as long as it doesn’t become the norm. My last workday I was called into the boss’ office. Someone was ill and the late shift on Monday needed to be covered. As I was there he asked me to do it. It was a ‘polite’ question with the undertone of ‘that’s no problem is it?’ I accepted but felt that it was going to be too much, my head was spinning already because I needed to make adjustments at home, again. I found it very unfair that people ‘on the floor’ and who are willing to turn up are asked first. The more you are present (you’re supposed to be present for your patients in my opinion) the more shifts you’re asked to cover.
More turnover. Employees tend to switch more to other wards or we see more people choosing other jobs for a variety of reasons (better hours, no shift work, closer to home …)
Health problems due to stress like heart disease are more likely to happen.
Burnout can lead to depression. Maybe you’re not ‘just’ annoyed with the job or the circumstances. You can’t do the bare minimum anymore to hold on to your job and try to have a life outside the job, now you’re thinking: ‘Take the job and shove it’. Not only the job is ‘dark’ but the light goes out everywhere. Everything becomes dark. Clinicians report severe clinical depression related to work. It is a real thing.
Burnout is like an oil stain in the ocean. It doesn’t solely touches you as an ‘employee’. When you’re burnout you don’t leave your illness at the workplace. (If only!) No, it spills over to your private life and you as a person. You don’t have the energy anymore to meet up with friends or to do fun things. It’s sad to say but I ‘unlearned’ to do fun things to the point that I need to force myself to do them. With burnout you’re not the most lovely person to be around, you’re irritable, short tempered, withdrawn. You feel like you don’t have the time to do anything except the things that ‘need’ to be done alternated with alone time to cope with the stress in your system. This made me think about the ‘Shining’ especially the scene where you see the sentence ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’
Understanding Job Burnout by Dr. Christina Maslach on YouTube.
Picture 1 click here.