The Top 3 Possible Reasons You’re Experiencing Career Burnout

Experiencing Career Burnout person with head in hands at a computer

Have you ever wondered why you feel burnt out at work? Ever sat back at the end of the day and thought – what am I doing with my life?! You may be experiencing career burnout.

This is the second in our series of posts about Career Burnout. Our last blog post was 11 Signs to Watch Out for When You’re at Risk of Career Burnout. In that post, we looked at what career burnout is, who gets it, and the signs you should watch out for.

In this blog post we’ll reflect on why it’s important to be aware of career burnout.  Specifically, we’ll look at the stages of burnout, the causes of burnout and the consequences of burnout.

12 Stages of Career Burnout

Unlike a cold or the flu, burnout doesn’t hit all at once. Most psychologists agree that there are 12 stages of burnout. While the early stages may simply feel like motivation, they can lead to overworking and running down your stores of energy. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, developing health problems, and feeling that you have no control over your work or life. 

Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have outlined the 12 stages as:

  1. Excessive drive/ambition. Common for people starting a new job or undertaking a novel task, too much ambition can lead to burnout.
  2. Pushing yourself to work harder. Ambition pushes you to work harder.
  3. Neglecting your own needs. You begin to sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
  4. Displacement of conflict. Instead of acknowledging that you’re pushing yourself to the max, you blame your boss, the demands of your job, or colleagues for your troubles.
  5. No time for nonwork-related needs. Your values are revised. Work becomes the sole focus at the expense of family, friends, and hobbies, which now seem irrelevant. 
  6. Denial. Impatience with those around you mounts. Instead of taking responsibility for your behaviours, you blame others, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, and overbearing.
  7. Withdrawal. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. You lack direction and are cynical. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome instead of enjoyable.
  8. Behavioural changes. Those on the road to burnout may become more aggressive and snap at loved ones for no reason.
  9. Depersonalization. Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life.
  10. Inner emptiness or anxiety. Feeling empty or anxious. You may turn to thrill seeking behaviours to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
  11. Depression. Life loses its meaning, and you begin to feel hopeless.
  12. Mental or physical collapse. This can impact your ability to cope. Mental health or medical attention may be necessary.

If you reach the point of mental or physical collapse, you will have to work incredibly hard to regain your work-life balance. It’s best to identify burnout in the early stages so that you can correct course and get yourself back into a healthier routine for the long-term.

Causes of Burnout

But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and personality traits. In fact, what you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing overwhelming stress as work or home demands.

Work-related causes of burnout

  • Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
  • Little participation in decision-making
  • Role conflict and ambiguity
  • Lack of appropriate resources
  • Lack of support and feedback
  • Lack of recognition or reward for good work.
  • Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
  • Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging.
  • Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment.
  • Unfair treatment at work
  • Conflict between values

Lifestyle causes of burnout

  • Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing.
  • Lack of close, supportive relationships.
  • Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others.
  • Not getting enough sleep.

Personality traits can contribute to burnout

  • Perfectionistic tendencies: nothing is ever good enough.
  • Pessimistic view of yourself and the world.
  • The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others.
  • High-achieving, Type A personality.

Are you experiencing career burnout?

Burnout is an individual experience that is influenced by work, lifestyle, personality factors, and/or an interaction among all three. Any of these factors alone or in combination can lead you to withdraw from your work.

Which of these factors are impacting you now?

Consequences of burnout

Clearly, the consequences of burnout can be severe. Your productivity can drop dramatically. This not only impacts your career, but it negatively impacts your team and organization as well. Your creativity will also be affected. So you’re less likely to spot opportunities (and you don’t have the interest or desire to act on them), and you may find excuses to miss work or take days off sick.

Career burnout can also spill over into your personal life, negatively impacting your well-being and your relationships with friends and family.

Employees who say they are very often or always experiencing career burnout or burnout at work are:

63% more likely to take a sick day

½ as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager

23% more likely to visit the emergency room

2.6x as likely to be actively seeking a different job

13% less confident in their performance

When you are feeling uninspired, detached from your work, and a little bit bored, take a step back and examine why. You might be experiencing career burnout. Finding your passion again is possible. By understanding what is causing your feelings of burnout, you can learn how to create a life that is more fulfilling for you. Of course, ideally, you don’t want to end up in that situation. 

These topics are part of our Career Labs Series design to motivate, inspire and empower your people to take ownership of their career development.

Stay tuned! In our next blog post, we’ll look at 5 Strategies to Prevent Career Burnout and Achieve Balance in Your Life.

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