NUMBER 582 1 SEPTEMBER BURNOUT
INDEX

     Burnout is defined as a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment in response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job (Maslach 1993; Maslach, et.al., 2000). While initial research was conducted in the social service arena, current research indicates that significant proportions of the population, from factory workers to surgeons, have advanced stages of burnout (Golembiewski, Boudreau, Sun & Luc 1998).

Self-reporting of burnout is most often labeled as feelings of frustration (Keenan & Newton 1984). Symptoms experienced by individuals range from mild frustration, anxiety and depression to more severe emotional reactions often described as emotional exhaustion, or the draining of emotional resources (Daily 1970; Koocher, 1979). Other symptoms include a feeling of depersonalization, described as the development of negative, cynical attitudes towards the recipients of one's service (Maslach 1993; Maslach, et.al., 2000; Schaufali & Burenk 1996), sense of helplessness, progressive apathy, colds and illness in times of stress, becoming angry with clients and coworkers, feeling of immobilization and being pressured, overzealous relief at the end of the day, disillusionment with field of work, increased alcohol or drug use, and work related dreams with anxiety and guilt (Koocher, 1979; Lewis 1980; Lee & Ashforth 1990; Renjilan, Baum & Landry 1998).

Organizational factors identified as contributing to burnout include multiple sponsorship of social work agencies, increased regulation, role conflict, downsizing, and role ambiguity. These organizational factors are of particular concern in the current practice climate of increased privatization (Lewandowski, 1998; Rosenthal, 2000) managed care (Crotty, 1999; U.S. GAO, 1998), and the projected budget problems currently being experienced in governments across the country (Eaton, 2002). Role conflict and ambiguity, that is, lack of clarity as to what is expected, appropriate, or effective behavior, may be brought about by lack of communication about job expectation and roles, conflict with coworkers or supervisors (Decker & Borgen. 1993; Siefert, Jayaratne, Davis-Sacks, & Chess, 1991; and Snapp 1992), differences between organizational policy and expectations and individual expectations of fairness and equity (Spence, Leschinger, Finegan & Shamian 2001), or value conflict with social work or personal values (Harrison 1980).

Inadequate communication and unrealistic expectations result in staff overload (Ray 1991) and feelings of isolation (Riordan & Saltzer 1992). Social service workers can also become frustrated when more time is spent on paperwork than with clients (Gomez 1995). While pay does not appear to be the motivating factor to work, workers often seek the intrinsic value of the opportunity to help or to have a sense of purpose (Blandertz & Robinson 1997). To further emphasize the impact of the work environment, studies have shown that burnout may be caught from co-workers or supervisors on the job through negative communication (Bakker & Schaufeli 2000; Geurtz, Schaufeli & De Jonge 1998; Mirvis, Graney, & Kilpatrick 1999).

Both age and gender have been associated with workplace frustration and burnout. However, inadequate skills and lack of experience may explain the age differences in levels of burnout, as younger workers are more likely to be inexperienced (Koeske & Kirk, 1995; Rowe 2000). Female workers compose a large percentage of the person-centered working population and may present their own particular problems. Women are often "other focused" and may have difficulty asking for help and support and in communicating their own needs (Davidson & Forester 1995; Gilligan 1982).

To summarize, sources of workplace frustration leading to burnout may originate within the organization, though individual characteristics can contribute to one's ability to cope with high stress work environments. Role conflict and ambiguity, value conflicts, feelings of isolation, and working with high stress clients or in high stress fields of practice are some of the key organizational factors identified in the literature as contributing to burnout. In terms of individual characteristics, younger workers and women tend to be more vulnerable to burnout than older workers and men.

 


CATHLEEN LEWANDOWSKI
Lewandowski, C. (2003) Organizational factors contributing to worker frustration: the precursor to burnout. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, December, 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
References

Bakker, A., & Schaufeli, W. (2000). Burnout contagion process among teachers. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 56, 2289-2308.

Crotty, P. (1999). Relationships, encounters and the corporate culture in managed mental health care, in Managed Care in Human Services, S.P. Wernet (Ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Press.

Davidson, K., & Foster, Z. (1995). Social work with dying and bereaved clients: Helping the workers. Social Work in Health Care, 21, 1-16

Decker, P., & Borgen, F. (1993). Dimensions of work appraisal: stress, strain, coping, job satisfaction, and negative affectivity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 40, 470-478.

Eaton, L. (2002). Bear rages past Wall Street to tax coffers. The New York Times, October 27, 2002 (w).

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 36th printing 2000.

Golembiewski, R., Boudreau, R., Sun, B., & Luo, H. (1998). Estimates of burnout in public agencies: worldwide, how many employees have which degrees of burnout, and with what consequences? Public Administration Review, 58, 59-65.

Gomez, J., & Michaelis, R. (1995). An assessment of burnout in human service providers. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 61, 23-26.

Harrison, W. D. (1980). Role strain and burnout in child protective service workers. Social Service Review, 54, 32-44.

Jayaratne, S., Davis-Sacks, M. L., & Chess, W. A. (1991). Private practice may be good for your health and well-being. Social Work, 36 (3), 224-229.

Keenan, A., & Newton, T. (1984). Frustration in organizations: relationships to role stress, climate, and psychological strain. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 57, 57-65.

Koeske, G., & Kirk, S. (1995). The effect of characteristics of human service workers on subsequent morale and turnover. Administration in Social Work, 19, 15-31.

Koocher, G. (1979). Adjustment and coping strategies among the caretakers of cancer patients. Social Work in Health Care, 5, 145-150.

Lewandowski, C. A. (1998). Retention outcomes of a public child welfare long-term training program. Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, 1(2), 38-46.

Lewis, H. (1980). The battered helper. Child Welfare: Journal of Policy, Practice, and Program, 109, 109-201.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422.

Mirvis, D., Graney, M., & Kilpatrick, A. (1999). Trends in burnout and related measures of organizational stress among leaders of Department of Veteran Affairs medical centers. Journal of Healthcare Management, 44(5) 353-65.

Ray, E. (1991). The relationship among communication network roles, job stress, and burnout in educational organizations. Communication Quarterly, 39, 91-102.

Renjilian, D., Baum, R., & Landry S. (1998). Psychotherapist burnout: Can college students see the signs? Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 13, 39-48.

Rosenthal, M. G. (2000). Public or private children's services? Privatization in retrospect. Social Service Review, 74 (2), 281-305.

Rowe, M. M. (2000). Skills training in the long-term management of stress and occupational burnout. Current Psychology, 19 (3), 215-228.

Siefert, K., Jayaratne, S., & Chess, W. A. (1991). Job satisfaction, burnout, and turnover in health care social workers. Health and Social Work, 16 (3), 193-202.

Snapp, M. (1992). Occupational stress, social support, and depression among black and white professional-managerial women. Women & Health, 18, 41-79.

United States General Accounting Office (1998). Child Welfare: Early Experiences implementing a Managed Care Approach. Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives. GAO/HEHS-99-8.


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