Preventing Organizational “Burnout”

Several years ago, the word “burnout” was coined to characterize mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. The primary cause of burnout was long-term, high-intensity stress. Symptoms of individual, personal burnout included: insomnia, depression, lethargy, anxiety, irritability, low frustration tolerance, fatigue, poor concentration, dread, feelings of “being emotionally drained,” racing thoughts and difficulty turning them off, and loss of interest in usual activities.

Just like individuals within them, organizations can burn out too. All organizational structures and programs burn out without the positive contributions of the people involved. It is the character of the people that makes or breaks a business. Without high-quality people of good character, all organizations burn out rather quickly.

Symptoms of organizational burnout include: a high rate of turnover in personnel; an increase of employee absenteeism; low morale, along with anger at superiors; reduced productivity or late completion of tasks; poor interpersonal relationships among employees; decrease in personnel initiative to the point of passive resistance to any work; job dissatisfaction and hopeless/helpless attitudes. If you are a boss and are aware of these kinds of symptoms within your organization, you can begin to suspect your company is burning out.

What can be done to “cure” and prevent organizational burnout? Here are a few suggestions.

Teach and reward good character.

According to the Character Training Institute, Inc. in Oklahoma City, good character is the “inner motivation to do what is right, according to the highest standards of behavior, in every situation, whatever the cost.” Character development within employees can be taught. It can be strengthened by recognition, praise and reward. When employees experience their own positive character traits being acknowledged, the quality of their performance increases and they naturally feel much better about themselves and how they function.

Clarify job descriptions.
Both employer and employee need to be clear about precisely what the minimum expectations of job performance are. It may be very helpful to work with the employee to let them know what the company expects as well as learn what the employee understands about his or her job. Striving for goals which aren’t yours is demoralizing.

Lighten the chronically heavy workload.
Overwork with no reward for working harder is the kindling for burnout.

Make certain that the competent employee’s talents and skills are acknowledged and well utilized.
Challenge the employees’ capabilities without overwhelming them. Boredom with ones s job is a spark which can ignite burnout.

See to it that the worker can pursue task completion with a minimum amount of interruption.
It is very frustrating to be involved in a challenging task and be constantly distracted from its progress or completion.

Publicly and privately recognize and appreciate the work accomplished.
We all need acknowledgment for the effort we make as well as the accomplishments we complete. Rewards and incentives for above-average performance is like cool water on the flames of organizational burnout.

Insure that every employee has the opportunity for advancement or self-development.
Having no career ladder or personal development plan available, is precisely like having no step-ladder available to a multiple-story burning building.

Make sure that power and authority is given to those same people who are responsible for performance outcome.
There is nothing quite so demoralizing as feeling responsible for a given task with no power to influence the results.

Organize the workflow.
Teach every worker where their job “fits” into the overall organizational function. Teamwork and team-building provides organizational insurance against burnout.

Provide periodic stress-management and character development courses or seminars.
Everyone can become better skilled at managing their stress. Everyone can develop high-quality character traits. It will also save the company from having its most dedicated people and hardest workers end up a cinder,…useless to or absent from, the workplace.

In these times of chronic, high-level stress, it is critical for our organizations and businesses to remain fully functioning. Keeping them from burning out might just save the lives of both people and companies.

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and Licensed Psychologist. He is available for coaching in any area presented in “Practical Psychology.” As your Coach, his only agenda is to assist you in creating the lifestyle you genuinely desire. The initial coaching session is free. Contact him: (970) 568-0173 or E-mail: or

Dr. Thomas also serves on the faculty of the Institute For Life Coach Training. In that capacity, he teaches advanced coaching teleclasses: “Coaching Successful Life’s Lessons,” and “Intentional Creation: Re-Shaping Your Life.” To contact the Institute, call 970-224-9830 or E-mail: Check out the website:


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