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Written By: Alicia Cassels


April is stress awareness month. As the average American worker spends 34.5 hours per week at work, it makes sense that employment related stress tends to have a profound effect on our lives. What factors are involved? Take a look at the information from Gallup below.

  1. Unfair treatment at work

When employees strongly agree that they are often treated unfairly at work, they are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment can include everything from bias, favoritism and mistreatment by a coworker to unfair compensation or corporate policies.

When employees do not trust their manager, teammates or executive leadership, it breaks the psychological bond that makes work meaningful.

  1. Unmanageable workload

In sports psychology, coaches use the term “mental quicksand” to describe how moments of poor performance can cause athletes to feel overwhelmed. This leads to further poor performance and damage to their confidence that continues to drag them down. High-performing employees can quickly shift from optimistic to hopeless as they drown in an unmanageable workload.

When their workload is out of control, employees look to their managers to be their advocates for what they can and can’t accomplish and for finding others to help them.

  1. Lack of role clarity

According to our recent State of the American Workplace report, only 60% of workers can strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. When accountability and expectations are moving targets, employees can become exhausted just trying to figure out what people want from them.

The best managers discuss responsibilities and performance goals with their employees and collaborate with them to ensure that expectations are clear and aligned with those goals.

  1. Lack of communication and support from manager

Manager support and frequent communication provide a psychological buffer, so employees know that even if something goes wrong, their manager has their back. Employees who strongly agree that they feel supported by their manager are about 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.

In contrast, a negligent or confrontational manager leaves employees feeling uninformed, alone and defensive.

  1. Unreasonable time pressure

When employees say they often or always have enough time to do all of their work, they are 70% less likely to experience high burnout. Granted, there are some professions that will always have extreme time constraints — like paramedics or firefighters. Not surprisingly, people in these roles are at high risk for burnout. In other fields, however, time constraints are often imposed by people who do not know how long it takes to deliver quality work or great customer service.

Unreasonable deadlines and pressure can create a snowball effect — when employees miss one overly aggressive deadline, they fall behind on the next thing they are scheduled to do.

What are the impacts of work-related stress and burnout?

Job burnout reflects a specific type of work-related stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, the consequences of unaddressed job burnout are serious and can include:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vulnerability to illnesses

Are you at risk for job burnout?

Answer the questions in the Mayo Clinic inventory below to assess whether you may be experiencing excessive stress.

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

What can you do?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to speak with a doctor or a mental health provider as burnout symptoms can be related to mental health conditions, like depression. To learn more, visit the Mayo Clinic Web Page.