What Is Job Burnout? Symptoms and What to Do

Published April 11th, 2021 - 01:00 GMT
burnout syndrome at work
People often have difficulty understanding what the term burnout at the workplace means. (Shutterstock: Kaspars Grinvalds)

How many times were you bored of your job and told your coworkers that you were "burned out"? Some people also use this term to refer to their dissatisfaction with the job they are doing. But which of these uses is the accurate one?

While many experts would tell us that feeling burned out in our jobs can be a sign that we should quit, very few sources actually go in-depth explaining what feeling burned out means and how we can diagnose ourselves with the right tools before we take action or send in resignation letters.

According to the World Health Organization, being burned out is an occupational phenomenon, but it is more complex than a person's feeling of being exhausted or tired.

Feeling burned out does not only stem from a person's sense of stress while they are at work, it is also linked to the environment they work in, whether we are talking about the physical place they spend many hours at every day, or the people they communicate with on a daily basis.

Describing the experience of being burned out, people often highlight feeling underappreciated, unaccomplished, and inefficient. Some people even start to feel as though they have lost their true identities as a result of being "in the wrong place for too long."


In most cases, a person is the most excited about their job during the first few months or when they receive promotions and take higher more-rewarding positions. However, when a person takes a job they are not very enthusiastic about, whether they take it for the money or the experience they are in dire need of, they can quickly feel that their job has become a source of chronic stress and inconvenience.

Here are some easy-to-spot signs that can tell you whether what you are going through in your professional life is an actual case of burnout or a mere feeling of exhaustion that can be overcome with a few days off;

1. Declining performance

You are in the burnout phase if, besides your preference of being somewhere else, you are not putting the needed amount of effort into your daily tasks, which affects your outcomes in the long term.

2. Crushed motivation

Another symptom of work burnout is to run out of reasons that can get you excited to go to work, or if you start to think that whatever you do is pointless.

3. Avoiding achievements

One of the major signs of burnout is not feeling interested in growth opportunities within your current job. For example, if your manager chooses you amongst three candidates for a leadership opportunity but demands a thorough report that sheds light on your accomplishments over the last three years, you do not feel eager enough to seize the moment.

4. No more interest in work

Not only you lost interest in the daily tasks you are supposed to finish, but also lost interest in everything your establishment stands for.

Some people also start to feel detached from their teams that they stop communicating with other people in the workplace, which strengthens their feeling of isolation and consequently makes them more prone to negative thoughts.

5. Chronic procrastination

When was the last time you've finished all of your tasks on time? Have you been postponing responsibilities for the next day, week, or month? Have you been forcing yourself to attend  meetings? These can all be signs that you are fed up with the roles you are assigned to at work.

In case you are certain that you are indeed burned out, try to explore other job opportunities that can get you excited for work again, whether in the same organization or somewhere else. If you think you have a chance of adjusting your tasks in a way that can help you feel challenged or more at ease, communicate your feelings to your direct manager, and see if they can help you overcome those negative feelings.

Have you ever felt burnout at work? What have you done to get over this feeling?

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