Banishing Burnout

Michael Leiter & Christina Maslach have written an another outstanding book about the problem of job burnout, called Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship with Work
. Relationship? That's an interesting way for social workers to think about their burnout problem.

In the opening chapter the authors further develop the concept of your relationship to your job. And they reveal why individual counseling alone isn't sufficient to solve the problem.

"[T]he limitation is that the therapeutic treatment is focused on you alone ... In other words, it is not a form of couples counseling, where both parties in the relationship are trying to work things out." ----Leiter & Maslach, p. 11,  Banishing Burnout (2005, Jossey-Bass Publishers).

The authors have drawn upon their extensive experience studying the so-called "helping professions." They tend to talk about burnout in terms of the degree of "fit" or "match" between your personality and your work environment. They've developed an assessment tool called the My Relationship with Work Test. This easy-to-take and easy-to-score test will clarify for you which aspects of your job are a good fit, and which aren't. When you're done with the test, which will probably take you about 15 minutes to take and score, you'll plot your results on a graph to reveal your "personal profile."  This profile shows you which aspects of your burnout are the most troublesome.

The My Relationship with Work Test evaluates the following variables:

  • Workload: Working alone vs. working with others, deadlines, amount of work to be completed, etc.

  • Control: Authority, decision making, professional judgment, etc.

  • Reward: Salary, benefits, perks, recognition of achievement, etc.

  • Community: Organizational communication, employee interaction, etc.

  • Fairness: Diversity, cultural sensitivity, disciplinary procedures, management's treatment of staff, etc.
  • Values: Management's commitment to the organization's values and mission, honesty, integrity, etc.

If you had asked me before I took the test to predict which of those variables I'd score the highest on, I'd have said hands-down it'd be the workload variable. But after taking the test, I discovered that I indeed had a high score on that variable, but it wasn't the variable with the highest score. Being able to plot my scores and see them graphed in my personal profile was immensely helpful.

The remainder of the book devotes a chapter to each of the variables in the My Relationship with Work Test. The chapters are constructed in such a way that you can specifically define a problem, set goals to address the problem, develop an action strategy, and track your progress in meeting your goal. The authors provide general guidelines for addressing change in the workplace, including a discussion of risks involved when change is initiated within an organization.

I've been a fan of Maslach & Leiter for a long time. When I read their books, I feel like "Ahhh, someone understands!"  I have been recommending their book The Truth About Burnout, and will continue to do so, but I like Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship with Work better because the entire book is set up around their assessment tool. There is no fluff in this book, just a meat-and-potatoes discussion of ways to define and address your burnout.

Banishing Burnout is must-read book if you are serious about dealing with your burnout. I recommend this book most highly!



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Revised: 04 Mar 2007