It has been a little over a month since Google’s Marisa Mayer gave her talk where she discusses, among other things, career burnout. According to Schweitzer (2012), Mayer said “she believes there’s no such thing as burnout—that you can work really hard for the rest of your life as long as you know what matters most to you and you make sure you get that.” These statements are dangerous without ample clarification, as my interpretation of the statement is that burnout belongs in fiction novels and in kumbayah sessions where everyone commiserates with each other and the like. It is not clear if this is the intention behind Mayer’s statements; however, I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt that the statement is being taken out of context.
Unlike Mayer, I do not believe burnout is about resentment per se. I think to focus on the issue from this perspective is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Companies that struggle with employees who are filled with resentment feel powerless to correct the dissonance. This is wrong. In my opinion, burnout is about employee engagement; therefore, a shared problem between organization and employee. Where Google or any organization that fosters a culture that encourages employee engagement, the topic of burnout is probably less prevalent. However, organizations that have taken their eyes off of employee engagement through one of Maslach’s six defined mismatches, are likely suffering at an organizational and at the individual level.
|Maslach’s Six Mismatches Between Employee and Job|
Perhaps it is simply semantics at play. However, I firmly believe in the concept of burnout. Furthermore, within the information security and technology industries we are fighting a stigma that burnout is an individual problem, not a shared problem. People that cite burnout are still often seen as lacking the mental toughness to push through stress that comes along with “every job”.
Is it any wonder why burnout symptoms spiral out of control so quickly? With the “individual problem” perspective, a fundamental lack of sanity checks from the perspective of the manager or organization leaves employees to deal with the problem on their own. In other words, at what point does the manager ask whether or not he/she is contributing to the person’s feelings? The manager is likely measured on many key performance indicators, but very few deal with employee engagement.
In summary, burnout is more than simply an individual problem. The problem is a shared problem between the individual and the organization, and in my opinion, the key is to focus on employee engagement as a critical success factor in preventing burnout in the organization. What do you think?