There are several key factors that may contribute to you burning out. But first, when you think of someone that’s experiencing burnout, what comes to mind?

Does an image of an overworked, stressed out employee with their head on their desk hopelessly surrounded by piles of papers come to mind? Or a healthcare provider feeling overwhelmed with 20 patients to treat before lunch? How about a teacher with an never-ending amount of lesson plans and grading to do?

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Burnout is a psychological syndrome that involves a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job (Maslach and Leiter, 2017).

In fact, you can read this blog post and learn about the causes of burnout, the sequencing of how it typically develops, and three steps to start taking to recover from out.

Yes- feeling exhausted, overworked, stressed out, and overwhelmed due to high workload and unrealistic demands is just one way to feel the burn, but did you know that there are a total of six areas of work that can lead to burnout?

Researchers Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter (1999) described these burnout as occurring in these six areas:

  • Workload
  • Control
  • Rewards
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Values

This is an ongoing, dynamic process and dialogue within an organization. Let’s take a look at each of those areas to gain a better understanding of the factors that are burning you out. Although some of these factors totally lie outside of your control, knowing what they are will empower you to advocate for yourself at work.

When you are equipped with knowledge, you can do something about it and make a difference (PS- there’s a great little surprise in here for you-keep reading!).



Let’s start with the most obvious one. If you don’t have sufficient time to recover from the demands at work, you lend yourself to chronic exhaustion. We know that work is no longer distinct from non-work in any aspect. Employees are working on their free time to keep up with job demands, creating this sense of “telepressure.”

It can be all too easy to check work emails in bed at midnight or answer to problems at work while you’re on vacation for the sake of staying competitive.

Are you guilty of that? I most certainly am.

Having worked in outpatient pediatrics, it was all too common to find me whipping out evaluations and notes during my free time on most nights. Long work hours and spillover of work to non-work hours may seriously interfere with one’s ability to self-regulate and recover.

If replenishment does not take place (including quality sleep), that lack of recovery can lead to a downward spiral, negatively affecting your mental and physical health.

Interestingly enough, Maslach and Leiter (1999) attribute burnout regarding workload not to be necessarily the amount or even the type of work demand, but rather an inherent mismatch between the person and work. If you are connected to your organization’s values, that can cause a strain, which can leave you depleted.

This blog post is one of four posts that is apart of our popular #SeptemberSeries that is now the #WorkWellSeries

Once you signup, you will receive an email with four downloads that include:

  • Energy Hacks: How to get out of a corrosive- aka toxic- and other undesirable energy states that are harming your workplace
  • Communication Hacks: Including the do’s and don’ts of how to keep a work argument for escalating, dealing with a toxic co-worker, and fun ways to build community at work
  • Personal Hacks: Practical and quick mindfulness exercise to better cope with stressors

Don’t be shy- share this series with your team!


Various studies have examined burnout in the healthcare field that indicate low levels of control at work lead to increased stress and therefore, decreased work satisfaction.

When you pair high demands and low levels of control, you’re looking at negative work outcomes such as:

  • High turnover
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Decreased productivity

What stems from having little control?

Role conflicts and role ambiguity, which is associated with greater burnout. This is because there is simply no direction or motivation at work. Role conflict prevents a productive course of action. Just as peanut butter is to jelly, work autonomy is to high levels of accomplishment.

A mismatch between you and your organization and insufficient perceived control at work denies you of that autonomy.


Have you ever left a job despite the pay being perfect on paper because you weren’t happy? Or someone you know? *Raises hand*

Feeling valued and appreciated at work can carry more weight than a paycheck. We think of financial rewards as the only type of reward worth caring about. We must also take into consideration status-related and socio-emotional rewards.

  • Status-related rewards: job security and movin’ on up in your company’s ranks
  • Socio-emotional rewards: feeling recognized and appreciate at work.

Rewards- especially socio-emotional rewards, contribute to a sense of increased personal accomplishment and efficacy.

Appreciation has its own currency, and it’s worth noting. We usually like to show our appreciation in the way we wish to receive them. Getting clear on your appreciation language will help you and those you work with to feel greater alignment and satisfaction.

Sign up to get our free downloads and find out what your appreciation language is, plus other tips and tricks to maintain work well-being.


A lively, responsive, positive community and this sense of community at work is viewed as incompatible with burnout.

Having a broken and unsupportive work community leads to awkward politics, fake conversations with undertones of passive aggression, or even worse. Workplace bullying can hold grave consequences, like substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Community holds an esteemed place in the burnout equation because burnout is thought to be more of a social phenomenon, and therefore is contagious. In fact, a lack of supervisor support is associated with the exhaustion component and lack of coworker support is associated with a sense of accomplishment and efficacy (Maslach and Leiter, 1999).


Fairness overlaps with community and reward to some degree. In community, distribution of rewards, recognition, etc. should be done fairly. Fairness is about respect and showing consideration for one another.

Fair leadership entails leaders making FAIR DECISIONS, and doing so in everyone’s best interest. Unfair decision making and treatment of workers at any time can alienate workers. Is one department receiving all the new equipment and your department is getting the short end of the stick?

Is the office manager putting all the new evaluations on your schedule whereas the other therapist gets more breaks? Look at what the scenario is and look at it from all angles. Sometimes unfair decisions can be done so unknowingly because perhaps you have never voiced your opinion before.


Having a match between your values and that of your organization is what connects you to your workplace. With that being said, if you are working in an organization and their priorities and values do not align with you, that creates a huge disconnect.

Essentially, the more your values and the values of the organization overlap, the more ideal the situation because you see yourself going places within that organization. You have found your purpose. When there lies any incongruence between values, you may find work irrelevant which develops into strain.

That strain begins to deplete you of your personal energy, reduces your involvement, and undermines your personal efficacy. That can cause distress. A key ingredient here is finding meaning in your work. Having meaningless work is associated with all three aspects of burnout.


You could be experiencing burnout strictly from one of these factors, or a combination of them. Plus, other life stressors that are going on in your family and personal life may contribute to your burnout experience.

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Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. (1999) Six areas of worklife, a model of the organizational context of burnout. Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 472-489.


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