Strategies for Burnout Recovery

Recovering from burnout is a major challenge. In my conversations with people who have experienced burnout, many have changed jobs or even abandoned their previous career in their efforts to restore balance in their lives.

The evidence indicates that critical mismatches of people with their work context as drive burnout. When the workplace remains constant or even becomes even more incompatible with employees’ aspirations or values, it makes sense to explore strategies for coping more effectively with the situation.

In a recent article with Eva Demerouti and Arnold Bakker, we explored three general strategies.

    • Selection: Prioritizing your responsibilities, dropping those with lower urgency.

    • Optimization: Focus your efforts on enjoyable parts of the job with the hope of energizing your efforts for tackling the drudgery.

    • Compensation: Find ways to delegate some tasks. The criterion here is not so much whether the tasks are enjoyable or urgent, rather it is the availability of someone capable of doing those tasks.

Our research indicated that selection has the potential for causing trouble when you neglect necessary tasks. Optimization often requires effortful activity or even learning new skills, both of which are a strain for people already experiencing burnout.

The bottom line, as we noted in our article and emphasized by an article in Fast Company is that compensation is the strategy with the best chance for success. Delegating tasks or learning to say no while directing new, interesting tasks to colleagues can reduce demands, giving people an opportunity to restore their energy while remaining in the same job.

Does this fit with your experience or observations?


This entry was posted in Areas of Worklife, Burnout, Civility, Coping and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Strategies for Burnout Recovery

  1. Heriberto says:

    Dear Dr. Leiter:

    It is a great way to explain the way back from burnout. I totally agree with that and in my practice, it has been useful to “reconect” people with their values and those motivations thay had in the beginning of their profesional development. I had a great experience with lawyers.

    Thanks for this post.


    • Michael says:

      Thanks for your insights on the potential for burnout recovery. Individuals require an exceptional focus to change their approach to work. It is so easy to settle into a dysfunctional pattern.

      I hope all continues well with you.

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Canada’s answer to improving worklife!

Michael Leiter

Dr. Michael Leiter, co-author of Banishing Burnout and The Truth about Burnout, is set to release his newest book on Work Engagement. Dr. Leiter founded the Canadian Centre for Organizational Research & Development and has researched organizational behaviour for more than two decades. He knows how to improve an organization’s bottom line (productivity and profitability by improving its top line - people. In fact, he and his co-author coined the term "work engagement" as the antithesis to burnout!

Over the years, Dr. Leiter has worked closely with a host of researchers, including Dr. Christine Maslach, creator of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), and most recently, with Dr. Arnold Bakker on work engagement. Now, through work with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) - the largest integrated health care system in the U.S. - Dr. Leiter has the CREW Solution.

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