PUSHING BEYOND THE BREAKING POINT : Employee Happiness and Workplace Burnout
“Dislike your job? Well, you’re not alone. We even have a support group, it’s EVERYONE, and the meetup place is the local pub,” as George Carlin humorously put it.
It’s a sharp jab at a grim reality. Workplace unhappiness is no laughing matter when you consider the overwhelming numbers – 60% of workers are emotionally unengaged on the job and a shocking 19% are actively miserable, according to a 2022 Gallup report.
The response to a casual question about job satisfaction often leads to raucous laughter. But, behind the jest lies a disturbing truth. The Gallup report, in one of the largest studies on employee burnout titled The State of the Global Workforce 2022, points out that the major trigger for dissatisfaction is “unfair treatment at work.” Other factors, such as an unmanageable workload, lack of clear communication from managers, inadequate managerial support, and unreasonable time pressure, all orbit around one central figure – the boss.
A bad boss can guarantee job hatred. Such leaders create a toxic work environment by ignoring, disrespecting, and not supporting their employees. Gallup highlights the power of management by stating that they can predict 70% of the variance in team engagement by evaluating the leader’s style.
Countless employees, shackled by poor leadership, dread the impending Monday each Sunday night. The mere thought of returning to an unfavorable workplace saps them of enthusiasm and motivation. Even those who love their job aren’t exempt from burnout, a state of utter exhaustion that results from an unrelenting feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s a serious issue that every organization needs to address.
Burnout, a product of sustained emotional, physical, and mental stress, engulfs those who feel constantly inundated by their work. Beyond the occasional work/life stress, burnout is a persistent lack of motivation and enjoyment in your professional or personal life. It’s a dangerous state to be in, often characterized by a sense of helplessness.
A staggering 76% of employees experience job-related burnout at least sometimes (only 27% claim to rarely or never experience it). While some stress and anxiety are inevitable in any job, these should not become the defining factors of one’s employment. Nobel laureate and author Daniel Kahneman once mentioned experiencing “miserable” periods when working alone on writing. However, when every day becomes an ordeal, that’s when burnout and depression creep in. It’s alarming that this is the reality for 19% of workers who are actively disengaged. And no, these figures are not isolated to sweatshops in developing nations; it’s a global phenomenon.
Employee engagement and wellbeing are inextricably linked. Often, we compartmentalize engagement as an in-work concept and wellbeing as an out-of-work one. Gallup’s findings, however, dispel this false notion. Work experiences significantly impact life outside of work. Employees suffering from high levels of burnout report difficulty in fulfilling their family responsibilities, and are 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.
The pertinent question is – how can we tackle this issue? The traditional approach of EAP programs, wellness days, work-life balance initiatives, and gym memberships, while valuable, does not get to the root of the problem. Achieving better workplace mental health demands a fundamental shift in organizational culture.
We need to transform our leadership and organizational culture to foster psychologically safe spaces where open discussions about mental health are encouraged.
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