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What is Burnout?

burnout clarity stress Sep 13, 2021

Burnout occurs when passionate, committed people become disillusioned with a job or career from which they have previously derived a lot of their identity and meaning. That’s quite an important distinction because the World Health Organisation definition of BURNOUT directly links it to work and the workplace.   It comes as the things that inspire passion and enthusiasm in your job are stripped away, become tedious or sometimes unpleasant things start to crowd in. 

The key prerequisites therefore are previous passion and enthusiasm. You can't burnout unless you were alight in the first place. 

Now having defined what burnout is- you can start to see why veterinary professionals like you guys- passionate, committed people- are very vulnerable to burnout and that’s why it's so important that, even if you are not experiencing burnout right now- you know how to recognise it and have strategies to tackle it. 

The tricky thing about Burnout is that it's very insidious - it can creep up on you. It is important to instead of just blaming the workplace and leaving first take a step back, see what is going on, look at strategies you can implement and find solutions to protect your time and energy and health.

Now here’s something important. “A High stress job not always equal burnout”  Emergency medicine is a high stress job, being prime minister is a high stress job, being a lawyer is a high stress job- right? But that does not mean that people in these roles will automatically suffer burnout. However, people in high stress jobs need to be particularly intentional about implementing strategies and understanding the early signs of burnout to avoid it.

Here are the 5 main factors that contribute to burnout. 

  1. Unreasonable time pressure - People were 70% less likely to experience burnout if they felt like they had the time to work and get their job done. 
  2. Lack of communication and support from managers - a manager’s support is a huge psychological factor so if you are a leader or a manager in your practice don’t underestimate your impact on your team both positive and negative.
  3. Lack of role clarity - only 60% of workers know what it is that they are supposed to be doing.  If you don't know what you're being measured on or what the expectations are- how would you know if you are doing a good job?  That is exhausting. Once you know what your role looks like in detail you know what you need to do to progress. 
  4. Unmanageable workload - Feeling constantly overwhelmed is a slippery slope to burnout.
  5. And lastly Unfair treatment - Employees who felt like they were being unfairly treated at work were 2-3 x more likely to experience burnout. That might be being bullied by a co-worker, it might be working in an environment where there’s favouritism towards some staff and not others.   It might be working in a clinic where everything is micromanaged so the staff don’t have any autonomy or input into decisions or everything they do is second guessed. 

Ok so what might be some early alarm bells you could look for that could help you know you were heading for burnout. 


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