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New light on tackling burnout among employees

In the current fast-paced, high-demand society, burnout among employees has seen a sharp increase. Looking at the Netherlands, 13 % of the working population in 2011 underwent the severe effects of burnout and are most likely still fighting the consequences today (Nu.nl). The effects of burnout are not only felt by the individual experiencing it, the organisation they work for suffers which, again, has negative consequences for the country and the economy. Thus, finding ways to decrease the chance of experiencing burnout has positive consequences for many levels in society.

A recent study held under 382 employees has shed new light on this matter, namely the relationship between achievement goals and burnout. Whether it is to make money or to be the best at what you are doing, all individuals have goals in their work. This study found that some goals, such as wanting to outperform others, have severe negative consequences due to the high stress and burnout risk they cause. Other goals, such as wanting to improve oneself on a task or job without using others as a reference, can significantly decrease the chance of experiencing a burnout.

Moreover, this study showed the importance of an interpersonal and intrapersonal resource that can be used against burnout. The interpersonal resource team-member exchange, or social-work relations, explains why a self-improvement goal can decrease the chance of experiencing a burnout. Employees wanting to develop themselves use colleagues to receive more tips and tricks, learn new ways of looking at things and gain more knowledge to become better at what they are doing. More importantly, employees wanting to improve themselves see their mistakes as opportunities to learn from and therefore thoroughly discuss them with co-workers. This, in turn, creates a buffer against burnout.

The study also found that the intrapersonal resource self-efficacy, or the feeling of being able to complete a challenge or overcome an obstacle in work, also significantly decreases the chance of experiencing a burnout. This is because having the idea that challenges are within one’s capabilities and obstacles can be conquered instantly decreases the stress that they bring along.
So, what are the take-home lessons of this study for individuals and organisations? Not experiencing a burnout starts with pursuing the right goal; self-improvement in self-referent terms. Secondly, having strong social relationships and using colleagues to help with problems and finally, stimulating and increasing self-efficacy of employees.

For more detail, please see the working paper.


Wat zijn de take-home lessen van deze studie voor individuen en organisaties? Het niet ervaren van een burnout begint met het nastreven van het juiste doel; zelf-verbetering met jezelf als referentie kader. Ten tweede, zorg voor sterke sociale relaties en maak gebruik van collega’s om problemen op te lossen. Ten slotte, stimuleer en vergroot het zelfvertrouwen van werknemers.

Voor meer informatie, zie het document.

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