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The 6 causes of burnout

Written By Mitch Glaser

  • ambition,
  • mental health,
  • personal growth,
  • productivity

Burnout is a b*tch.  It’s not fun.  All of a sudden a new and exciting job starts feeling like torture… real physical torture.  Opening that laptop in the morning is the most dreadful of experiences.  You already saw on your email app how many messages are waiting for you and the last thing you feel like doing is dealing with it.  It’s okay – we’ve been there.  In a later article, we’ll discuss how to bounce back from burnout, but for this article, we’re going to cover the 6 causes of burnout so that you can recognize them and do your best to correct them before you get sucked into the downward spiral of burnout.  The below are excerpts written by Elizabeth Grace Saunders and feature in Harvard Business Review.

1. Workload

“When you have a workload that matches your capacity, you can effectively get your work done, have opportunities for rest & recovery, and find time for professional growth and development.  When you chronically feel overloaded, these opportunities to restore balance don’t exist.

To address the stress of your workload, assess how well you’re doing in these key areas:

  • Planning your workload
  • Prioritizing your workload
  • delegating tasks
  • Saying no
  • Letting go of perfectionism”

2. Perceived Lack of Control

“Feeling as if you lack autonomy, access to resources and a say in decisions that impact your professional life can take a toll on your well-being.  If you find yourself feeling out of control, step back and ask yourself, “What exactly is causing me to feel this way?”.  For instance, does your boss contact you at all hours of the day and night, and make you feel as if you need to always be on call? Are the priorities within your workplace constantly shifting so you can never get ahead? Or do you simply not have enough predictability in terms of your physical or people resources to effectively perform your job?”

3. Reward

” If the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for your job don’t match the amount of effort and time you put into them, then you’re likely to feel the investment is not worth the payoff.”

4. Community

“Who do you work with or around?  How supportive and trusting are those relationships?  In many cases you can’t choose your colleagues and clients, but you can improve the dynamic.  It could be as simple as taking the time to ask others how their day is going – and really listening.”

5. Fairness

“Think about whether you believe that you receive fair and equitable treatment.  For example, are you acknowledged for your contributions or are other individuals praised and your work goes unnoticed? Does someone else get regular deadline extensions or access to additional resources when you don’t?”

6. Values Mismatched

“If you highly value something that your company does not, your motivation to work hard and persevere can significantly drop. Ideals and motivations tend to be deeply ingrained in individuals and organizations.  When you’re assessing this element of burnout, you need to think carefully about how important it is to you to match your values with those of the organization.”

These different aspect of burnout are key to understanding in order to avoid burning out.  One of these or several of them may be present at any given time.  It’s important to realize that the pain that comes along with one of these categories only get’s exponentially worse over time.  If you want to live a healthy and happy work life, you need to course correct as soon as you can!

We hope this article was helpful.  Please reach out with any questions

Mitch Glaser

Mitch Glaser, banker turned entrepreneur, is the Cofounder of Fredi! Throughout his high-pressure career on Wall St, he has experimented with a wide variety of methods to keep his productivity up. He is excited to share his insights with you surrounding productivity and mindset hacks, business, nootropics, and finance.


Follow along with him on Instagram and LinkedIn. Check out some of his blog posts, including Nootropics: Holistic wellness for your busy brain.