Burnout in Human Services

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Burnout in Human Service Professionals People spend a significant amount of time involved in work-related activities. One’s job gives an individual a sense of identity and self-worth. Therefore it is not surprising that a person’s job can be a source of happiness as well as stress and burnout. Human services workers are particularly at risk for burnout on the job. A supportive and responsive management team can be an important defense against the negative effects of job stressors and burnout. Concept of Burnout The concept of burnout was originally observed in the setting of human services, such as health care, social work, psychotherapy and teaching. Burnout was first described in the 1970s and initially referred to as a reaction to stress on the job (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). Burnout experts Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter, authors of The Truth about Burnout, define burnout as “the index of dislocation between what people are and what they have to do.” They state burnout “represents an erosion in values, dignity, spirit and will — an erosion of the human soul. It is a malady that spreads gradually and continuously over time, putting people into a downward spiral from which it’s hard to recover.” (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). Another definition describes burnout “as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity“(Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996, p. 4). The concept of “burn-out” implies that an employee was on fire for their job at some point. For something to burn-out it had to be on fire in the first place so it suggests that a person’s enthusiasm and passion for his or her job is a necessary predecessor of burnout. An employee’s passion, energy, and ability to work can lessen over time if the job is really demanding and the work

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