Archive for February, 2007

burnout

February 20, 2007

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 MAPP showed that he was designed to work on projects
where there was a definite 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

here’s one of those motivational emails.
check. check. check.
and i’m frigging sick.

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