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Causes and Prevention of Burnout in Human Service Staff

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Causes and Prevention of Burnout in Human Services Staff

Randi Pitts-Ortega

BSHS 461/Building Community in Human Service Organizations

July 17, 2013

Tara Noecker

Causes and Prevention of Burnout in Human Service Staff

Burnout is defined as physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by the stressors of ones employments. Many factors can contribute to the cause of burnout including personal reasons, cultural issues, high demand, organizational structure, and lack of support. Burnout has been largely identified in the human services field mostly because of the amount of time spent with people and heavy involvement in client's personal lives. This type of work makes for an emotional job setting as opposed to a more business-like atmosphere. There are ways to identify when one is in a state of burnout, as well as steps to reverse the effects burnout can have on ones work performance. It is important to recognize the signs that can lead to burnout and what a person can do to prevent it (Lewis, Packard, & Lewis, 2007).

The causes of burnout can be separated into five categories which are individual, cultural, organizational, supervisory, and social support. An individual's personal situation can lead to burnout on the job. Some individual factors that lead to burnout are their personality type and having unrealistic expectations for clients (Lewis, Packard, & Lewis, 2007). Individuals may also be dealing with a personal issue such as a family members illness or death. These individuals will usually bring their problems to work and the stress that comes with it. Cultural factors that contribute to burnout are the attitudes that surround the individual. Negative attitudes lead to competition between associates and a deteriorating sense of community which creates a cultural climate that contributes to burnout (Lewis, Packard, & Lewis, 2007).

The other three categories work cohesively to cause burnout. Organizational structures, such as a bureaucratic management style can lead to supervisors ignoring feedback and concerns from employees which then turns to lack of support from supervisors and other associates. An organization may also operate in a way that does not allow for employees to broaden their experience which causes boredom because they are only providing a single type of service. Supervisors are not forming good relationships with their subordinates because the structure of management does not allow for a more participating role from the employees. When ideas or concerns are not addressed by supervisors or the organization, individuals will experience burnout more quickly due to lack of support (Lewis, Packard, & Lewis, 2007).

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