What organizational factors are leading to burnout of professionals early in their career?
Burnout is a persistent, negative, work-related state of mind in individuals primarily characterized by exhaustion. It is accompanied by distress, a sense of reduced effectiveness, decreased motivation, and the development of dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors at work. The numbers of workers reporting burnout have been continually increasing in recent years, making it all the more concerning that these numbers are some of the highest among young adults beginning their careers. In addition, data in Europe shows that young adults (24-36) experience prevalent stress and anxiety and the highest levels of sick leave due to stress-related mental ill-health. A recent study, published in June 2022, “The Importance of Effective Organizational Socialization for Preventing Stress, Strain, and Early Career Burnout: An Intensive Longitudinal Study of New Professionals,” addresses this issue further.
The study uses the job demands-resource model to help identify what organizational factors contribute to this problem. The job demands–resource (JD-R) model states that when job demands are high and job positives are low, stress and burnout are common and suggests that burnout results from exposure to job demands in combination with inadequate resources. Job demands include the physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of work that require sustained effort and are, therefore, over time, associated with increased risks of certain physical and psychological costs (strain) and the development of symptoms of burnout. Job resources are those physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of work that are functional in achieving work goals and stimulating personal growth, learning, and development.
The study identifies resources (including acquired personal resources) as a buffer for the impact of job demands on the risk of developing symptoms of burnout. Additionally, a lack of these resources constitutes a risk factor for developing symptoms of burnout. Unfortunately, the transitional period from education to working life is often characterized by high demands and a lack of resources leaving new professionals particularly vulnerable to burnout. This combination of factors often culminates in entry-level professionals reporting lower levels of job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Furthermore, individuals who experience symptoms of burnout during the first years of their career experience more cognitive problems and sleep problems than individuals who did not have the same symptoms at the start of their careers.
Despite this research, there is a fundamental lack of guidance in terms of how to prevent experiences of burnout among new professionals. The study suggests that organizations that wish to reduce the risk of burnout among their new employees should ensure that they experience high levels of role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance. Improving the development of role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance has been shown to relate to decreased levels of stress week-by-week and lower levels of strain over the first three months following professional entry.
In conclusion, the study’s results showed that on weeks when participants experienced higher role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance, they reported significantly less stress. And participants who experienced higher levels of resources also reported substantially less strain. At Rift Valley, we are focusing on new findings such as this in designing our technology to enable management to support their staff and identify key resources. Our flagship technology, Tectonic, will allow employees to log and analyze their mental resilience over time and document specific daily frustrations or successes. Enabling employers to understand and address friction within their organizations transparently, creating a healthy work environment and reducing early burnout.
Frögéli, E.; Annell, S.; Rudman, A.; Inzunza, M.; Gustavsson, P. The Importance of Effective Organizational Socialization for Preventing Stress, Strain, and Early Career Burnout: An Intensive Longitudinal Study of New Professionals. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 7356. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19127356