Or­gan­i­sa­tional sup­port key to com­bat burnout

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health | Lifestyle - Padraig O’Morain Padraig O’Morain (po­morain@ya­hoo.com) is ac­cred­ited by the Ir­ish As­so­ci­a­tion for Coun­selling and Psy­chother­apy. His lat­est book is Mind­ful­ness for Wor­ri­ers. His daily mind­ful­ness re­minder is free by email. Twit­ter: @PadraigOMo­rain

‘T hey say no man is an is­land,” an ac­quain­tance rue­fully re­marked. “But I’m the ex­cep­tion that proves the rule.”

He was in a state of what we would now de­scribe as “burnout” in his work. He woke each morn­ing fa­tigued and al­ready feel­ing down at the prospect of an­other day. He ended it feel­ing that he had achieved lit­tle. In be­tween, he felt he didn’t have the same em­pa­thy as be­fore for the peo­ple the or­gan­i­sa­tion was meant to help.

“Maybe I’ve just lost it any­way,” he said of him­self. “Maybe it’s me.”

That was an­other clas­sic sign of burnout – this loss of the sense of be­lief in one­self.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion for which he worked had al­lowed his sec­tion to run down by not re­plac­ing peo­ple when they left. Need­less to say, the de­mands re­mained the same. Again, this is a fa­mil­iar burnout sce­nario. Many peo­ple work­ing in the health sec­tor have ex­pe­ri­enced this state of af­fairs.

What makes burnout hard to cope with is not get­ting the re­sources with which to do your job and not get­ting the sup­port needed to over­come your dif­fi­cul­ties. By sup­port I mean ef­fec­tive man­age­ment that sets about re­mov­ing the blocks that make good work im­pos­si­ble.

The con­tin­u­ing ab­sence of these re­sources al­lows burnout to hit the peo­ple af­fected and can lead to hope­less­ness which, in turn, can lead to de­pres­sion.

When my ac­quain­tance raised the is­sue of the im­pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing a de­cent job in the cir­cum­stances of his depart­ment, he was met with vague promises he knew would be for­got­ten as soon as he shut the man­ager’s door be­hind him.

Lots of peo­ple work hard with­out get­ting burned out.

Too few re­sources

It’s re­ally that lack of a sense of ac­com­plish­ment, of too few re­sources, of too lit­tle help, and the emo­tional ex­haus­tion that comes with all this that com­bine to pro­duce burnout.

What can be done? Es­capism usu­ally doesn’t help. Scrolling through Face­book or play­ing Candy Crush doesn’t re­ally do a lot to take your mind off your prob­lems.

You can look for choices that would help to im­prove mat­ters in your work­place and you can use strate­gies such as mind­ful­ness and de­vel­op­ing an op­ti­mistic at­ti­tude. And all of these can help. But for these to work you need to get or­gan­i­sa­tional sup­port – and this means you have to have looked for that sup­port.

I men­tioned the health ser­vices above. If a health ser­vice is crum­bling or just re­ally badly or­gan­ised, then all of the psy­cho­log­i­cal strate­gies in the world can leave you feel­ing stranded.

Greater pos­si­bil­ity

Re­solv­ing burnout is fun­da­men­tally down to or­gan­i­sa­tions en­sur­ing peo­ple have the means to get their jobs done and lis­ten­ing to the is­sues that arise in their work. If you work for a body that couldn’t or­gan­ise its way out of a pa­per bag, then you might need to move. Now that the econ­omy is on the up, mak­ing that move is a greater pos­si­bil­ity than it has been for years.

That’s what the ac­quain­tance I men­tioned at the start even­tu­ally did. His ap­proaches to his or­gan­i­sa­tion con­tin­ued to be met with promises that were not kept. It was when he be­gan to doubt him­self that fam­ily and friends got on his case and urged him to find an­other job.

He didn’t, as it turned out, have to ac­cept a lower rate of pay in the new job. Though the or­gan­i­sa­tion was smaller, with fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­vance­ment, he rel­ished the sup­port he re­ceived in get­ting things done, as well as the ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his bosses.

He re­gained his men­tal health and en­ergy and his in­ter­est in his work. That was a prize worth fight­ing for.

No man or woman is an is­land. That is hugely im­por­tant for em­ploy­ers to re­mem­ber if burnout is an is­sue in their work­places. Send­ing peo­ple off to be fixed won’t work if the en­vi­ron­ment they en­ter ev­ery day is de­mor­al­is­ing, un­sup­port­ive and im­pos­si­bly de­mand­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.