It may be too late to talk about avoiding
burnout. Maybe you've already reached the
stage where you are thoroughly disillusioned
with your job and where you no longer get
anything of emotional value from it. You
may feel let down or betrayed by your organization,
and may be "going through the motions"
just for the money your job brings in.
While you can deal with exhaustion by taking
a good break, rest may not cure this sense
of disillusionment. The passion and commitment
that you previously brought to your job
may now have completely burned out. Without
this, your career may not progress much
People deal with this situation in a number
of different ways. Some are effective, while
others are not so good:
- Doing Nothing: Often,
one of the worst ways of dealing with
burnout is to accept it and do nothing
about it. By remaining in place, you risk
becoming bitter and angry as opportunities
pass you by. Your organization may come
to regard you as “dead wood”
and if things do not change, you may be
doomed to a gradual or sudden decline.
You need to change the situation in some
- Changing Career: If
you have lost all interest in the values
that led you into your profession in the
first place, then career change may be
the best option open to you.
The first downside of this, however, is
that you lose the benefit of the precious
experience you have already gained within
the profession. In entering a new profession,
you will be competing equally with people
much younger than you, and these people
may be willing to accept much lower salaries.
A second downside is that you risk a strong
sense of failure in the way you handled
things, whereas burnout will only have
been a temporary setback if you succeed
in turning the situation around.
- Changing Jobs: Job
change within the same profession is usually
less of an issue than full-scale career
change, in that many of your skills and
much of your experience will be transferrable.
Job change gives you the opportunity to
rededicate yourself to your original goals.
It also provides a fresh start in a new
environment, without the painful reminders
that come with staying in the same job.
Changing jobs is an appropriate response
where you are disillusioned with your
organization more than you are with your
career. What you risk, however, is ending
up in the same situation again: In changing
your job, you must make sure that you
understand what lead you to burn out,
and ensure that history does not repeat
itself. Looking at this positively, you
should know what to look for, and have
a good idea of how to avoid it!
- Using Burnout as a Trigger
for Personal Growth: This is
probably one the most positive ways that
people manage burnout: By using it as
a wakeup call to re-evaluate the way they
want to live their lives and what they
want to achieve. We look at this in more
Burnout as a Trigger for Personal Growth:
Why You Burned Out
An important first step in managing burnout
is to deal with the sense of failure that
you may experience following it. A starting
point for this is to take a long, rational,
dispassionate look at the circumstances
leading up to it.
A good way of doing this is by talking
to someone who you trust and who is experienced
in similar situations in similar organizations
(you may find a personal
coach helpful here). Avoid people within
your own organization, as these people will
be tainted with its assumptions and thinking
habits: These may contribute to the problem.
Take the time to talk the situation through
in detail, looking at the circumstances
before your involvement, your workload,
your actions and the actions of other people,
and the situations that evolved.
If you are the sort of person who has been
committed enough to your work to burn out,
it is more than likely that you will have
already done everything in your power to
resolve the situation.
In reflecting, you will probably find that
you made some mistakes, but you will most
likely see that these are excusable under
the circumstances. You will almost certainly
see that a great deal of blame should be
attributed externally to the situation,
to people around you, or to the people who
set up the situation in the first place.
In your mind, make sure you place this blame
where it fairly belongs.
Lessons that people typically learn through
this process are that they are not superhuman,
that hard work does not cure all ills, and
that major achievements need the commitment
and support of other people: In many circumstances,
the intense commitment of only one person
simply is not enough. They also learn to
look at situations with skepticism as they
go into them, and to trust their own judgment
in spotting and communicating problems early
Learn the lessons of your mistakes so that
you do not repeat them.
On… Finding New Direction
Having come to terms with the situation,
the next step is to re-evaluate your goals
and think about what you want to achieve
with your life. We touch on this briefly
in our Avoiding
Burnout article; however in recovering
from burnout, it is worth doing this in
on the Mind Tools main site guide you through
the processes of thinking about what you
want to achieve with your life and of reviewing
and setting life goals.
Inform these processes with the increased
wisdom and self-understanding you will have
gained by understanding why you burned out.
Ensure that you give due weight to the relaxation,
quality of life issues and social activities
that will help to protect you against burnout
in the future. Make sure that your goals
are set in a balanced manner so that they
do not conflict with one-another, and that
they are not so challenging that they become
a source of excessive stress in their own
Next, use SWOT
Analysis to more fully understand your
current position with respect to these goals.
Use it to identify where you need to develop
new skills and capabilities, and to understand
where you need the help of other people.
Make an Action
Plan for achieving these goals and start
work on it. While part of this Action Plan
may include changing job or career, you
will be doing this as part of an active
plan for the future, not as an escape from
one job into another one that is equally
As well as taking these active steps to
put burnout behind you, make sure that you
adopt the steps towards a healthy lifestyle
we looked at in our Defenses
Against Stress section. These will help
you to avoid exhaustion and long-term stress
in the future.