- Burnout is an erosion of motivation that results
from mismatch between the employees' unconscious needs or implicit motives
and job demands and opportunities
- Burnout affects the physical, mental and emotional
well-being of the employee
- It reduces work productivity, increases
work-related stress, absenteeism and increases the financial burden on the
- To reduce burnout, it is always preferable to
select applicants whose implicit motives match the characteristics of the
condition that arises due to the physical, mental and emotional state of
exhaustion from work. It results in lack of motivation, low efficiency and a
feeling of helplessness.
The health effects include anxiety
, immune disorders and cardiovascular
diseases. Burnout related financial burdens due to general work-related stress
reduced productivity, employee turnover, medical, legal and insurance expenses,
are on the rise.
‘For a satisfactory, productive and motivated workmanship, there needs to be a match between the person’s unconscious needs and wants and the opportunities and demands at workplace by positive interventions.’
The American Institute of Stress estimates the total cost at
billion per year to American enterprises, while a 2012 study commissioned by the Health
Programme of the European Union estimates the annual cost at 272 billion euros to EU
A new study by researchers from the
Universities of Zurich and Leipzig has established that burnout arises due to a
mismatch between a person's unconscious needs and wants and the opportunities
and demands that arise at workplace. The study results published in the
open-access journal Frontiers of Psychology
implications for the prevention of burnout.
Imagine an accountant is out-going and seeks closeness in the
personal relationships. But the job offers limited access to colleagues and
clients. In another situation a person is put in the role of a manager when he does not enjoy taking center-stage
or being in the role of a leader. In both the scenarios there is a mismatch
between what the employees want and what their jobs demand from them. This
results in burnout.
The research team states that the unconscious needs which
are also known as implicit motives play an important role in development of
burnout. A mismatch between the implicit motives and job characters can cause
burnout. There are two types of implicit motives:
- Power Motive - To feel
strong and self-efficacious there is the need to take responsibility for
maintain discipline and to engage in arguments or negotiation.
- Affiliation Motive - The need
for positive personal relations in order to feel trustworthy, warm and
Too much or not enough scope of either of the motives in
comparison with the individual needs can also result in burnout.
"We found that the frustration of unconscious affective
needs, caused by a lack of opportunities for motive-driven behavior, is
detrimental to psychological and physical well-being. The same is true for
goal-striving that doesn't match a well-developed implicit motive for power or
affiliation, because then excessive effort is necessary to achieve that goal.
Both forms of mismatch act as 'hidden stressors' and can cause burnout,"
says the leading author, Veronika Brandstätter, Professor of Psychology at the
University of Zurich, Switzerland.
Researchers recruited 97 people from the age of 22 years to
62 years through the Swiss Burnout website, a forum for Swiss people suffering
from burnout. They had to complete a questionnaire on their physical
well-being, degree of burnout and their job characteristics including the job
opportunities and demands.
strength of implicit motives varies from person to person. It
cannot be measured directly
through self-reports since they are mostly unconscious.
Researchers used an inventive method
asking participants to write imaginative short stories to
describe five pictures, which showed an architect, trapeze artists, women in a
laboratory, a boxer, and a nightclub scene. The stories were analyzed for sentences about positive personal relations between
persons (which expressed the affiliation motive) or about persons who have influence on others (
thus expressing the power motive), by
trained coders. Participants who used many positive
sentences in their story received a higher score for the corresponding
results showed that the more the mismatch
between someone's affiliation motive and the scope for enhancing
personal relations at the job, the higher the risk of burnout.
Similarly, adverse physical symptoms, such as headache, chest
pain, faintness, and shortness of breath
, became more apparent with
increasing mismatch between an employee's power motive and the scope for influence
at workplace. Results also suggest that
immediate interventions could reverse the risk of burnouts and increase
well-being and productivity at work.
starting point could be to select job applicants in such a way that their
implicit motives match the characteristics of the open position. Another
strategy could be so-called "job crafting", where employees
proactively try to enrich their job in order to meet their individual needs.
For example, an employee with a strong affiliation motive might handle her
duties in a more collaborative way and try to find ways to do more
teamwork," says Brandstätter.
motivated workforce it the key to success in today's globalized economy. Here,
we need innovative approaches that go beyond providing attractive working
conditions. Matching employees' motivational needs to their daily activities at
work might be the way forward. This may also help to address growing concerns
about employee mental health, since burnout is essentially an erosion of
motivation. To do so, we must increasingly take account of motivational
patterns in the context of occupational stress research, and study
person-environment-fit across entire organizations and industries," says
Beate Schulze, a Senior Researcher at the Department of Social and Occupational
Medicine of the University of Leipzig and Vice-President of the Swiss Expert
Network on Burnout.
- Burnout is caused by mismatch between unconscious needs and job demands -