|A number of factors influence the development of burnout. I have found that the easiest way to understand these factors is to look at the following three areas; ourselves, our work and our life in general. I will list these briefly in this email and unpack them more in future posts.
Our life in general
Sometimes when all these three areas are demanding it creates a “perfect storm” for burnout in which the person has no relief. Without space to relax and recharge the person may find themselves on the road to burnout.
Which one of these areas is causing you the most concern at the moment?
What can you do to more effectively cope with the stresses that you face in this area?
In my consulting work I get asked to speak about burnout. This is partly due to being a psychologist and partly because I went through burnout 8 years ago and since then have spent a lot of time writing and speaking about it. In this series of emails I plan to have a deeper look at the topic of burnout. We will look at what it is like to experience burnout, some of the causes, how a person can recover from burnout, and, most importantly, how to avoid it.
With many occupations experiencing an increase in work intensity (more being expected with less resources), I often come across leaders who are stressed, tired and showing some initial signs of burnout.
Being burnt out is far more than feeling stressed and tired. It is a serious condition that can lead to a person not being able to work. In my case, this meant that I couldn’t work for a year. Although there are many aspects to burnout, the three main ones are1
Depersonalisation and cynicism
A Sense of Inefficacy
It is a very dark place indeed. Burnout involves these three aspects and includes feelings of anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, confusion, hopelessness, loneliness, guilt and disillusionment. For some people there can be negative health problems and even some extreme problem behaviours.
It is this unpleasant nature of burnout and the consequences that it can have on the person and their families that make it really important to take seriously and to ensure that we develop and maintain healthy coping strategies.
More on the causes of burnout next time.
1 Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter (2001) Job Burnout. Annual Review of Pscyhology, 52(1) 397-422
|“Never overestimate the strength of the torchbearer’s arm, for even the strongest arms grow weary.”
My mother turned 95 last week and I would like to focus on her in this final email on the topic of ‘being likeable’. Mum continues to be a likeable person. Sadly, many older people are affected by illnesses such as dementia which can have a negative impact on the way that they relate to others.Thankfully, mum has avoided any of these and is really healthy for her age.
The staff at the retirement village where she lives love her, lots of people visit her and she is held in very high regard. What are her secrets to likeability?
She remains positive
She genuinely cares for others
She advocates for the needs of others
She asks questions rather than always talking about herself
She sees her time as an opportunity to help others
She is generous
I guess that as I get older I need to be sure that I will be an older person who others will like and want to be around rather and not someone who they visit reluctantly out of obligation. I must be careful that I don’t become a grumpy old man.
Will you be someone who others will want to visit and spend time with in the retirement home?
“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
Likeable people are generally easy to get along with and we feel better after having spent time with them. This does not mean that they never get angry or say things that they later regret; it just means that, in general they aren’t prickly. Prickly people, on the other hand, are difficult to be around and we generally feel worse after having spent time with them. Here are some characteristics of prickly people.
Prickly people are defensive and suspicious
Prickly people are hurtful with their words and actions
Prickly people are hard to hug
Attention Prickly People!
Likeable people realise that life is not all about them as they listen and show genuine interest in the lives of those around them. I often meet people at work or in social situations who not only don’t listen; they don’t even stop talking about themselves for one moment.
I wonder, with people like this, whether it is their ego that is driving this self focus or whether they have not been taught the basics of healthy human interactions. Perhaps it is that they are genuinely not interested in me or my thoughts on anything. I am not sure what causes this, but I know that it makes them less likeable to me.
Conversations should be a two way street with sharing, listening and showing interest in others. When we show interest in others it means that we value them and their opinions and care about the things happening in their lives.
To be likeable, you will need to listen to others. This means more than simply not talking. Many people while seemingly listening, are actually thinking about the next thing that they going to say. Listening means really paying attention and trying to understand what the other person is talking about. The focus is placed on the other person and not yourself.
To be likeable, you will need to be interested in others. I am not talking about the fake smile and well timed nods; I mean genuinely interested in the other person. Some people feign interest in us until they realise that we aren’t the person they want to talk with. Have you ever been at a function where people are in networking mode? Have you had someone begin to talk with you and as they quickly realise that you aren’t going to buy anything, you can see their eyes start to move around to others in the room and soon they are off?
Are you a good listener?
Do people sense that you are interested in them?
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say” Zeno of Citium