How to Know if Your Workers Are Burned

"The great competitiveness and job insecurity as well as the demands of the environment, the transcendental changes with new technologies and the current accelerated pace of work, have taken on an incessant rhythm that generates anguish, emotional exhaustion and disorders in eating, physical activity and rest, giving rise to physical and mental problems and other risk factors in the health of today's society."

Currently, one of the most frequent occupational health problems in Europe is job stress. On many occasions, we all know that this stress can be unavoidable.

However, we must recognize that there are various measures to prevent this becoming chronic stress, thus avoiding the appearance of the S índrome Burnout or Syndrome Worker Quemado (SQT) . Term currently officially recognized in the World Health Organization (WHO) as Occupational Disease.

What should I do so that my employees do not suffer from this syndrome?

There are several options and it will depend on the attitude you take towards them. Reactive or proactive attitude? The reactive would be to act once the worker is already burned in the company. In these cases the management chooses to seek desperate solutions, focused on finding a why and a possible solution.

The most common thing is to talk to the person, inquire and ask about their status in the company, look for possible motivators that would make them get out of this situation of "Burnout".

However, this reactive behavior rarely has a positive result, since there is a high risk of increasing the discomfort of the already burned person.

The goal always has to be to prevent its occurrence. So we will need to take a PROACTIVE ATTITUDE. And for this, we will follow some steps:

In the first place, it is essential to know in advance the risk factors that can generate chronic stress in the workplace .

In this sense, the INSHT NTP 704 guide distributes these risks into 3 levels:

1- Risk factors at the organization level

  • Very hierarchical and rigid organizational structure
  • Lack of instrumental support from the organization
  • Excess bureaucracy, "professionalized bureaucracy"
  • Lack of worker participation
  • Lack of coordination between units
  • Lack of practical training for workers in new technologies
  • Lack of reinforcement or reward
  • Lack of professional development
  • Conflicting relationships in the organization
  • Inappropriate management style
  • Perceived inequality in HR management

2- Risk factors related to the design of the workplace

  • Work overload, emotional demands on customer interaction
  • Decompensation between responsibility and autonomy
  • Lack of time for the attention of the user (patient, client, subordinate, etc.)
  • Role dysfunctions: conflict-ambiguity-role overload
  • Excessive emotional burden
  • Lack of control of task results
  • Lack of social support
  • Unfinished tasks that have no end
  • Little decisional autonomy
  • Economic stressors
  • Dissatisfaction at work

3- Risk factors related to interpersonal relationships

  • Deal with difficult or problematic users
  • Conflicting customer relationships
  • Negative work dynamics
  • Tense, competitive relationships, with conflicts between colleagues and with users
  • Lack of social support
  • Lack of collaboration between colleagues in complementary tasks
  • SQT social contagion process
  • Lack of reciprocity in social exchanges

Once we know the possible risks that may be present in the company, we must know or assess at what stage of development the syndrome is , since it will go through different phases before being satisfied.

What are the phases to identify to assess whether the development of this syndrome is occurring?

Phases of the burnout process (more developed in the INSHT NTP 704 guide ): SEE GUIDE

Initial phase, of enthusiasm.

In this phase, it is common for all workers to start off excited about their jobs, with high expectations and positive energy.

Stagnation phase.

In this phase the worker realizes that the professional expectations they had are not being met. He begins to assess whether his effort is well rewarded, finding imbalances between the demands and available resources (stress appears).

Frustration phase.

Faced with the imbalance found, frustration, irritability at work and the appearance of conflicts with colleagues arises. This leads to the appearance of emotional, behavioral and physiological problems.

Apathy phase.

Defensive coping appears as a result of the changes experienced in the previous stage. In this phase we tend to treat clients in a distance and mechanical way, where my needs prevail over customer service, trying to avoid stressful tasks as a defense mechanism.  

Burning phase.

Emotional and cognitive collapse with significant health consequences. If the worker reaches this stage, it is likely that he will leave his job.

An important thing to keep in mind in this journey is that these phases are cyclical in nature, so they can be repeated at different times in working life.

Knowing these phases will offer us a very valuable guide to identify in what situation the employees of our company (or the company in which we work) may find themselves. And it will also be necessary to bear in mind that if we suspect that they have reached the last phase, it is very likely that they feel:

  • Emotional exhaustion (tiredness, fatigue, feeling of not being able to give more to others, etc.)
  • Depersonalization (negative, distant and cold feelings, attitudes and responses, especially towards clients, patients, users, etc.)
  • Feeling of low achievement or professional or personal fulfillment (demands that exceed your current competent capacity, feelings of disappointment and personal and work failure, low self-esteem, avoidance of personal and professional relationships, general dissatisfaction, avoidance of work, abandonment of the profession, etc. .)

Obviously, identifying all of this is not an easy task . In addition, the most common is that workers do not express their discomfort or their feelings openly, especially if we do not have a close relationship with said worker.

However, there are various psychometric estimation tools (questionnaires) that help us estimate the presence of said pathology, one of the most used is the specific Maslach Burnout Inventor  (MBI) test.