Why Job Burnout is Torpedoing Your Employee Experience


Job burnout can manifest in different ways for different people. For some, burnout has physical manifestations like insomnia or illness. For others, it has mental and emotional manifestations like disengagement or feeling like running out of gas.


At some point in your career, you have likely experienced burnout yourself. It might have felt like you just couldn’t get excited about your work, couldn’t wait for the day to be over, or didn’t want to socialize with coworkers throughout the day.

Disengagement costs American businesses approximately $450 billion in lost productivity per year. There are other intangible costs in lost referrals, the impact of subpar customer service, and other costs from employees who feel overworked and underappreciated.

Job burnout can result from a number of factors:

  • Employees lack control. If employees have a limited ability to influence decisions that affect their work, job burnout can result from a lack of resources and support. Giving employees meaningful ways to influence their schedules, their assignments and their workloads is critical to employee engagement.

  • Employees have especially taxing jobs. If your workers have unusually emotionally or physically taxing jobs, it is common to experience “compassion fatigue” or physical fatigue from the work. Compassion fatigue is common for healthcare workers, direct service practitioners and can be present in some customer service roles. Finding ways to support physical and emotional wellbeing can prevent burnout from taxing jobs.

  • Heroic efforts set the standard. Rewarding heroic efforts can be motivational, but relying on those efforts as the standard can lead to job burnout. Rewarding employees who live the culture or live to work can result in employees who identify so strongly with their work that they lose balance in their lives. Employees who work in high-performance cultures can feel overworked and under-supported. Promoting the concepts of flexibility at work and work-life balance don’t mean much to employees if leadership is still rewarding people for overworking. Leaders can set the tone by example, above all, by not sending work-related communications after hours and taking time off.

  • Employees have monotonous or purposeless jobs. Many employees would be willing to trade fashionable perks for work that is fulfilling to them. Without a sense of purpose, employees can have a hard time relating to their organization’s work and mission. In a study from Mercer, thriving employees were 3 times more likely to work for organizations with a strong sense of purpose. In the same study, only 13 percent of companies responded that they had a purpose-driven mission. Helping employees connect with the bigger picture of why their work matters can go a long way to prevent burnout.

  • Employees don’t know what is expected of them. Unclear expectations can lead to discomfort and unease at work. Over time, that lack of feeling stable at work can lead to burnout. Establishing clear expectations, goals and objectives for all workers can reduce the risk of burnout for employees.

  • The organizational culture is toxic. You may not even realize you have an office bully or a silent, toxic culture at work. Establishing regular and easy opportunities for employees to contribute honest feedback about their experiences at work can help organizational leaders understand what the culture is really like for employees who work in it everyday.

Job burnout can lead to employee dissatisfaction, disengagement and lost productivity, and higher turnover. While addressing a high trend of disengagement or burnout at work needs a long-term strategy to make fundamental changes to the organization’s employee experience, taking an immediate, concrete step to promote wellness and work-life balance can mean a lot to employees who feel underappreciated.