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Burnout in Human Services Staff

Essay by   •  August 8, 2011  •  Case Study  •  811 Words (4 Pages)  •  2,235 Views

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Burnout in Human Services Staff

Human service workers often serve people in desperate and heartbreaking conditions. Some human service workers may come to find that the needs of a client are so overwhelming that he or she can no longer feel empathy for him or her. There's nothing sadder than a Human service worker who has lost her empathy. Anyone who has spent any amount of time working in the human services organizations is probably familiar with the concept of burnout. Burnout destroys motivation, work ethic and hope that the work one do makes a difference.

Burnout refers to a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from involvement with people in emotionally demanding situations. It has three major factors: emotional exhaustion, a feeling of low personal accomplishment with clients, and a sense of depersonalization. A key factor in burnout is a lack of the sense that one can do as one wants; it includes a tendency to leave behind idealism and personal concern for clients and to move toward more mechanistic behaviors (Lewis, Packard, & Lewis, 2007, p. 147).

Burnout has deleterious effects on the worker, clients, and organization; causes of burnout vary and reflect unique organizational conditions. Some causes include responding to people's pain and crisis, characteristic of the organization like low salaries and difficulty providing client services, feeling overworked and undervalued, working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment, and what is happening in one's personal lifestyle such as working too much, and taking on too much responsibility.

Human service agencies cannot afford the loss of productivity involved when an active, enthusiastic professional burns out. This process can never be completely prevented because individual as well as organizational, characteristics affect susceptibility; however, there are a number of positive steps can be taken to lessen organizational stress and prevent burnout. One approach is to change the way jobs are structured. Creating opportunities for new program development and new career options for staff can help. New professionals often need support, information, and structure because they tend to be concerned about their own competence. Supervisors can help human service workers make the transition from newcomers to self-sustaining, confident professionals if they devote energy to establishing strong relationships and if they understand their own importance as role models. Many organizations provide employee assistance programs including counseling and referrals as well as crisis management services after incidents such as workplace or client violence. Indirect services include lectures or workshops on subjects to enhance employee wellbeing, supervisor training, and employee problem-solving task forces (Lewis, Packard, & Lewis, 2007, p. 147).

Human service manager



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