Identifying & Combating Work Burn-Out


Ever pulled into your work parking lot and just sat in your car? Cried a little when your alarm goes off because you know what your day brings. Whether it’s a difficult client or a micro-managing boss, either way, trudging into work feels like climbing Mount Everest. If any of this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing burn out. Burn out is more than having a bad day at work or the occasional stressful deadline; it is an overwhelming feeling that affects your life outside of work. 


Burn out is very real, according to Gallup poll, two-thirds of full-time workers are dealing with burn-out at some point while at work. That is a staggering number. Look around your office, two-thirds of them have, at some point hated being at work. Maybe you even need to include your self in that number. 

Types of Burn-Out

It is important to remember that “work burn-out” is a broad term. It really can be broken down into three types; Exhaustion, Cynicism, and Inefficiency. 

Exhaustion – This goes beyond tired. Exhaustion is extreme physical or mental fatigue. You find you cannot think straight or problem solve. It is also often accompanied by a chronic headache. At work, it can show itself in any or all of the following symptoms; poor performance, inability to keep deadlines, social withdrawal with co-workers, and calling in sick regularly. 

Cynicism – Cynicism is an attitude of the general distrust of others’ motives. You assume everyone is out to get you, and they are only motivated by greed, ambition, and desire. At work, this can be especially harmful. Once you start believing your boss and co-workers are trying to purposefully make you look bad and have nothing but selfish desires, you most defiantly need to make a change. 

Inefficiency – When you find yourself unable to complete your work as well or as quickly as you did in the past, inefficiency becomes a problem. Often, to compound the problem, we don’t even care that we are not as efficient as in the past. Not caring is a giant red flag that burn-out is quickly approaching if not already at your doorstep. 

Signs of Burn-out

We joke about crying when your alarm goes off and calling in sick way too often, but there are real signs that you may be suffering from burn-out. Let’s go through some of them to help identify 

  • Are you angry or snapping at co-workers?
  • Having trouble focusing on your work?
  • Do work achievements not give you any sense of accomplishment?
  • Are you covering up work issues with food or alcohol?
  • Have your sleeping habits changed?
  • Is your attitude at work filtering into a lousy mood outside of work?

Analyzing the answers to these questions can teach you deep down how you feel about work and your job. 

Ways to Cure Burn-out

The most common answer we all have heard and have probably offered is to “take a vacation.” Vacations are a great break and can be a quick fix for burn-out. Unfortunately, though, it is not a long term fix. A long term cure requires a little more work and some hard decisions. 

The best way to approach fixing work burn-out has many steps, and all may not apply to your exact situation. 

Own your part of the situation. We have all been there, a horrible boss and useless co-worker, and it can be easy to put all the blame for your burn out on them. Some of it may rightfully be associated with a person, but looking inward is the place to start. How am I contributing to this situation? Does my attitude need adjusting? Have I picked up some bad habits that are fueling my unhappiness? Until you own your part, don’t move to the following steps. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.00 

Have the hard conversations. Often work burn-out is a result of monotonous workload and overwhelming responsibility. Having a candid discussion with your manager or boss may be what is needed to help remedy the situation. Asking for a change in responsibility or if you can swap some of your to-dos with a co-worker may be a solution. Just be sure to head into that meeting with answers and some options, not only your complaints.   

Try learning something new.  When was the last time you learned a new skill? Have you taken a class to further your career? Challenging yourself by learning something new, either at work or outside of work, can be just what you need to stimulate your brain. Burn-out is often a result of being in a rut and feeling unfulfilled, so take a dance class, get a certificate, take some continuing education classes, whatever sounds intriguing to you!

Change your routine.  We find ourselves in habits and routines that we didn’t even realize we acquired. We get up at the same time, eat the same breakfast, listen to the same thing, talk to the same people every day. Shake things up! Head to work earlier than usual, have conversations with someone you don’t know well at the office, change the order or your tasks, or even adjust your after-work activities. Making these minor changes may be the jump start to feeling better and more excited about work.  

Look at the bigger picture. Taking a step back and looking at the grand picture is an excellent way to gain some perspective. Often we get, so hyperfocus on the day to day stresses we forget the big picture. Ask yourself some intimate questions about why you took the job, what has changed since then? Just because a job pays well and has excellent perks may not be enough of a reason to stay. Honestly, dreading going to work every day is no way to live a happy life, and moving on may be just what you need. There is no shame or stigma in deciding that what was once right for you is no longer the case. 


While burn-out can seem like an impossible challenge, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Taking it day by day, making some tough decisions, and having some meaningful conversations can make all the difference! Let us know your thoughts and tips.

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