Avoiding Burnout

By: Henry Neils


In some ways it was a typical breakfast meeting. The waitress was pleasant, the eggs were average, and the restaurant was full of busy people. We shared a cup of black, coffee-like substance, and the first few times my client took a sip he managed to spill quite a bit of it. His trembling hand was just one of the symptoms of his burnout. That’s why we were meeting. He wanted to know if I could help him.

I picked up a fork and explained that as long as I used it for eating, the fork would last indefinitely. However, if I began to use it to drive nails or dig trenches, it would soon break. The key was to use it for what it was designed to do.

The look in his eyes told me he got it, but I still went on to say that people are like the fork. When they do what they are not designed to do, they eventually break.

Sure enough, his career assessment showed that he was designed to work on projects where there was a definitely goal. He derived immense satisfaction from reaching goals. He also needed to work by himself about half the time. He was a scientist and enjoyed lab time, doing calculations, and interpreting test results.

What his job required on a day-to-day basis was another story. His primary task was to supervise a dozen people and maintain operations. No goals. No projects. No time alone. Consequently, his job was sucking the life out of him.

Much credit for his recovery goes to his boss who was willing to change the job content to fit the design of a valuable employee.

So how do you know if you, a loved one, or someone who reports to you is suffering from burnout? Here are the early-warning signs.

  1. chronic fatigue - exhaustion, tiredness, a sense of being physically run down
  2. anger at those making demands
  3. self-criticism for putting up with the demands
  4. cynicism, negativity, and irritability
  5. a sense of being besieged
  6. exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things
  7. frequent headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances
  8. weight loss or gain
  9. sleeplessness and depression
  10. shortness of breath
  11. suspiciousness
  12. feelings of helplessness
  13. increased degree of risk taking
Fight burnout. Do what you were designed to do. If you know someone who fits this description send them a copy of this article.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

“Henry Neils is President and Founder of Assessment.com, the leading online career assessment company focused on helping employees and employers work together for their mutual benefit. Millions of people have gained personal insight into their careers by using the tools, such as MAPP™ (Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential), provided at Assessment.com.”.