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7 Root Causes of Professional Burnout

Topics: Work Culture
Herman Turnip/Flickr

Burnout can happen to anyone. Working too much is just one of many potential contributing factors. Understanding some of the most common triggers could help you prevent it — or at least, deal with it sooner rather than later.

1. Your values differ from your employer’s.

It’s important to be philosophically aligned with the work you do and the organization or company you do it with. If you feel there are fundamental differences, it could lead to burnout.

“Contributing to a meaningful personal goal is a powerful incentive for individuals,” write Christina Maslach in The Truth About Burnout, per Forbes. “When this work contributes as well to the organizational mission, people may be rewarded with additional opportunities for meaningful work.”

2. You don’t take vacations.

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t use all of your vacation time. About half of those who work more than 50 hours a week say they don’t take the vacation time they’ve earned. And, even among those who do take the time, 30 percent say they do a significant amount of work while on vacation. Taking time away is important for physical and mental health. If you skip it, it could lead to burnout.

3. You have an external locus of control.

The term locus of control is used by psychologists to describe individuals’ beliefs about how things happen in their lives. Folks with an internal locus of control believe that, for the most part, they determine their fate though their actions. People with an external locus of control, on the other hand, feel that things happen to them more often than they actually effect change. An internal locus of control is more commonly associated with professional happiness. An external one can lead to stress and burnout.

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4. You work in certain industries.

Some industries are simply more stressful than others. For example, firefighters and members of the military cope with tougher working conditions and more pressure than the average worker. Those with especially stressful jobs should make extra efforts to take care of themselves all throughout their careers to stave off professional burnout.

5. You’re overworked.

When work is too much, too complex, or too urgent, people can start to feel overworked. If this persists day after day, month and month, it can turn into a real problem. It’s better to address this kind of stress than to ignore it and allow feelings to mount.

6. You feel powerless.

When workers have some sense of autonomy, or power and independence in regards to their day-to-day tasks, they’re happier. When they’re not given the amount of responsibility they feel they deserve, they tend to feel more out of control. And, that can lead to professional burnout over time.

7. You’re being treated unfairly.

When workers feel like they’ve being treated unfairly at work, it can lead to burnout. The same is true if someone thinks that others are being treated unfairly or that there is a culture of favoritism at play, for example. It’s important to feel that things are just, at least for the most part, at work. Otherwise, the situation could really begin to take a toll.

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