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The 12 Stages of Burnout

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Employee burnout is real and concerning. If you're an employer on any scale, chances are you've noticed lackluster productivity, decreased collaboration, or a dip in enthusiasm from an employee at some point. If you're curious or worried about burnout (and you should be!), you should know how to recognize the signs, causes, and how to mitigate them in the future. 

Employee burnout defined: 

The World Health Organization defines employee burnout as, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion 
  2. Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy”.

Burnout is defined as a work-related problem. Employers should be familiar with the phenomenon to address it. 

It's important to recognize the signs of burnout. According to Providence Treatment, there are twelve stages of burnout. 

  1. The compulsion to prove oneself: feeling like you constantly have to demonstrate your worth 
  2. Working harder: becoming a work “addict”
  3. Neglecting needs: not sleeping or eating well, lack of social interaction
  4. Displacement of conflicts: blaming others or your situation for all your problems, including your stress level
  5. Revision of values: your friends and family are no longer as important as your work 
  6. Denial of emerging problems: intolerance, perceiving others at work as stupid lazy, demanding, or undisciplined 
  7. Withdrawal: avoiding or dreading social interaction, using alcohol or drugs to try to feel relief from stress
  8. Odd behavioral changes: changes in behavior such as impatience, aggression, and snapping at friends and family. 
  9. Depersonalization: feeling detached; seeing neither yourself nor others as valuable 
  10. Inner emptiness: feeling empty inside; to try to overcome this you look for activities such as overeating, drinking, and use of drugs 
  11. Depression: feeling lost and unsure, exhausted, future feels bleak and dark 
  12. Burnout Syndrome: can include total mental and physical collapse; time for full medical attention. 

The Cause 

The causes of employee burnout are not particularly surprising nor rare for modern workers. Common causes include: 

  • Insufficient resources to fully meet job responsibilities
  • Ambiguous roles and fuzzy responsibilities 
  • Limited feedback from peers, supervisors, and/or managers 
  • Too much work and not enough time, team members, or resources
  • Restricted opportunities for growth or input 
  • Not enough balance between work and personal life 
  • Lack of reward, fiscal or otherwise 

Tips for dealing with employee burnout 

Reassess workloads

If you're concerned that the employees on your team are burnt out, take a minute to evaluate everyone's workload. If one employee is taking on more than another, see if you can evenly distribute the work to someone who has less on their plate. 

Align tasks with employee interests 

If you know one employee likes to be more organized and in charge of scheduling events, social media, and emails, align their work duties with their interests. If another employee is detail-oriented and focused on smaller details, make sure they are on projects that require more attention to detail. 

Show gratitude and recognition 

Giving and receiving feedback can make people uncomfortable. Taking the time to recognize when something is going well is always a good idea. If you're worried about a particular employee suffering from burnout, take a few minutes at the end of the day or week to say thank you and job well done. 

Employees feedback

Check in with your employees about what's going well, what could improve, and what they are satisfied with. If you notice an employee is less vocal or opinionated they may be burnt out. 

Recognizing the cause and stages of employee burnout will allow you to act and hopefully mitigate the negative side effects of disengaged employees. Remember, it's easier to speak with and realign a burnt-out employee than go through the hiring process to replace them if they decide to quit. 

Performance reviews are a great way to avoid burnout as a company. Frequent quarterly reviews can help businesses and employees sense when there is burnout and take the necessary actions to prevent it. The frequent reviews also reduce turnover, increase employee engagement and job satisfaction. If you are interested in a performance review platform, schedule a demo with Dominion to see the wide capabilities of our platform. 


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