Methods of Measuring Follower Burnout in the Workplace

Analysis of the models of follower burnout in the workplace. Definition of burnout as a chronic stress syndrome. Analysis of different views on a relationship between burnout and age. Study of correlations between burnout and Big Five personality factors.

Рубрика Менеджмент и трудовые отношения
Вид статья
Язык английский
Дата добавления 29.04.2017
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UDC 159

Methods of Measuring Follower Burnout in the Workplace

Prilipko Evgenia Valeryevna

Ph.D. Candidate

University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio,

Texas, U.S.A.

Loiko Konstantin Valeryevich


Freescale Semiconductor, Austin, Texas, U.S.A.


The article examines two main models of follower burnout in the workplace. Burnout is a chronic stress syndrome that develops over time as a consequence of prolonged stress. Different views on a relationship between burnout and age are presented. Correlations between burnout and Big Five personality factors are discussed


УДК 159


Прилипко Евгения Валерьевна


Университет Воплощённого Слова, Сан Антонио, Техас, США

Лойко Константин Валерьевич


Freescale Semiconductor, Остин, Техас, США

Данная статья исследует две ключевые модели измерения синдрома сгорания личности у сотрудников. Синдром сграния личности - это эмоциональное, психическое и физическое истощение, развивающееся в результате хронического неразрешенного стресса на рабочем месте. В статье приводятся разные точки зрения на связь между синдромом сгорания и возрастом сотрудников. Статья также освещает корреляции между синдромом сгорания и моделью пяти личностных особенностей человека



Burnout is one of the factors that may influence employees' productivity, group relationships, motivation, and overall emotional well-being of followers in the workplace. The concept of burnout was independently introduced by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974 and Christina Maslach in 1976. The term was used to describe the psychological state of health care volunteers who were showing such symptoms as emotional depletion and a loss of motivation (Freudenberger, 1974, 1975; Maslach, 1976). As proposed by Schaufeli, Maslach, and Marek (1993), burnout is defined as a psychological syndrome of an overall emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced level of personal accomplishment.

Six psychological work factors (demands, control, social support, reward, fairness, and corresponding values) are considered to be the primary contributing factors to the process of burnout, in accordance with Maslach and Leiter (1997) and Lindblom, Linton, Fedeli, and Bryngelsson (2006). Janssen, Schaufeli, and Houkes (1999) also believe that burnout is associated with work-related overload and lack of social support from colleagues and management. Tuuli and Karisalmi (1999) relate the roots of burnout to corporate organization, the working community, as well as organizational incentives and rewards. Lindblom et al. (2006) support this point of view by stating that burnout process and work-related stress is exclusively based on work circumstances. When examining factors that instigate the evolvement of follower burnout, Schaufeli, Van Dierendonck, and Van Gorp (1996) suggest Karasek's (1979) job demand-control theory, and effort-reward imbalance model by Siegrist, Peter, Junge, Cremer, and Seidel (1990). Cherniss (1980) singles out poor leadership as a crucial factor leading to burnout among followers.

According to Janssen et al. (1999), burnout is a unique personal stress experience that is intertwined with complex social relationships at work. Ganster and Schaubrieck (1991) view burnout as a result of prolonged stress. Maslach and Schaufeli (1993) believe that stress occurs when one consistently fails to cope with workloads, while burnout occurs during extended, unsuccessful attempts to adjust to work demands. Pines (1993) suggests that any individual can experience stress, but burnout occurs when followers have unmet needs and unfulfilled expectations. Under such conditions they are unable to derive a sense of significance or accomplishment from their work.

Pines and Aronson (1981) affirm that burnout is characterized by physical depletion, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and by the development of negative self-image and negative attitudes toward work, life, and other people - colleagues, management, and customers. Thus, various definitions of burnout taken into consideration, its common features depict it as a state of physical depletion, fatigue, and loss of energy.

According to Birchard (2002), symptoms of burnout are initially detected when individuals realize that they dread going to work and lose interest in their job, as well as it may also be the result of boredom. The study of Pines and Yafe-Yanai (2001) indicates that the principal cause of career burnout lies in one's inability to believe that his life is meaningful, and that one's actions are important. They contend that career burnout is the result of a process when highly motivated, authentic, and committed followers lose their spirit.

According to Bakker, Demerouti, and Schaufeli (2002), in the early phase of burnout research, the participants of burnout studies were, primarily, health care professionals. It was assumed that they experienced an enormous emotional demand in their jobs. That research was later expanded to include other groups of human services, such as teachers, social workers, and police officers (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998). Overall, the concept of burnout has been extended further, and has been applied to measure burnout among leader and follower computer programmers, military, firefighters, clergy, academics, tele-service professionals, midwifes and others.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory

As mentioned by Evans and Fischer (1993), the primary tool used to measure burnout is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Being the most utilized instrument in research on burnout, it was subdivided into Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS), constructed for professionals working with patients, clients and inmates; and Educators Survey (MBI-ES), designed for students (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998). MBI consists of 25 statements about personal feelings and attitudes, which assess three aspects of the burnout syndrome: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. All components are necessary to define the presence of burnout. As defined by Maslach & Schaufeli (1993), emotional exhaustion is a state when one feels depleted of his emotional energy; depersonalization is a negative attitude toward other people; and reduced personal accomplishment is a decrease in one's feeling of work achievement. burnout workplace stress personality

Maslach Burnout Inventory - General Survey (MBI-GS) was developed in 1996 by Schaufeli, Leiter, Maslach, and Jackson in order to be more applicable to a broader spectrum of non-service professions. The model can be used in any occupational context and its three components are exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. The exhaustion component measures emotional resources; cynicism implies the development of negative attitude towards work; and efficacy assesses personal accomplishments (Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2002).

The study conducted by Tuuli and Karisalmi (1999) applied the MBI model and confirmed that burnout was related to the amount of conflicts in the work place, job demands, and job monotony. Such positive work features as open lines of communication and job control did not result in a correlation with burnout.

The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory

MBI has been the primary instrument used to measure burnout and is known to be widely applied internationally. Nevertheless, Dutch scholars Kristensen, Borritz, Villadsen, and Christensen (2005) criticize the MBI and present a new tool for the measurement of burnout: the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI). The scholars explicate that they could not apply MBI for their study due to several considerations. First, MBI was designed to measure burnout among employees in the human service sector only. Next, MBI measures one general concept of burnout by three independent components. Third, three components of MBI should not be combined, but rather need to be studied separately. Fourth, MBI includes inappropriate questions that lead interviewees to negative answers (e.g. “I feel I treat some recipients as if they were impersonal objects” and “I don't really care what happens to some recipients” (Kristensen, Borritz, Villadsen, and Christensen, 2005). Fifth, some questions are very culture-specific and could not be applied to Denmark. Six, there is an ambiguity as to what is measured by MBI-GS. Lastly, MBI questionnaires are not publicly available and are distributed commercially, which contradicts with the principle of free instrument exchange widely supported in Denmark.

The objective of CBI was to measure burnout, looked at as fatigue and exhaustion, and, to avoid limitations described above. CBI can be viewed as three free-standing components: personal burnout, work-related burnout, and client-related burnout. Personal burnout component is designed to measure burnout among unemployed, employed, and retired individuals. Work-related burnout measures exhaustion associated with one's work. Client-related burnout measures fatigue related to one's work with clientele. Each component of CBI studies its specific phenomenon as opposed to a generic concept of burnout and has been translated into eight languages.

Schaufeli and Taris (2005) do agree with CBI authors that although some MBI questions trigger negative responses, a wealth of studies prove that the cross-national validity of the MBI is nonetheless not shattered. The critics conclude that MBI is still a number one instrument to measure burnout and it has been successfully applied universally.

Burnout and Age

As found by Mor and Laliberte (1984), Birch, Marchant, and Smith (1986), Poulin and Walter (1993), and Vredenburgh, Carlozzi, and Stein (1999), of all other biographic characteristics, age is associated with burnout most consistently. Burnout is observed more often among younger people as opposed to people aged over 30 or 40 years. Kunzel and Schulte (1986) also support the greater incidence of burnout among the younger and less experienced, and Cherniss (1980) refers to this phenomenon as `early career burnout.' Tuuli & Karisalmi (1999) conclude that younger people have more symptoms of burnout than the aging people due to their life phase, which often involves starting a family, having small children, and applying for mortgages. Thus, Tuuli & Karisalmi (1999) propose that burnout is more job-related among older people, whereas among younger ones burnout might also be related to other life factors in addition to their job. Butler and Constantine (2005) report higher levels of burnout among school counselors who have been employed for as long as 20-29 years, but other studies noted higher levels of burnout among individuals newer to the profession (Wilkerson, 2009).

In their study, Aloha et al. (2006) measured burnout levels by means of MBI-GS and found that there was an increase in the level of burnout after every 10 years, first after 41 years of age and then again after 52 years of age. The authors explain these findings by claiming that burnout takes time to develop, and, second, the need for flexibility and adaptability to the work environment with its ever-changing technological advances creates a burden for the aging group of followers.

Big Five Personality Factors and Burnout

Bakker, Van Der Zee, Lewig, and Dollard (2006) suggest that burnout may differ not only across work-related factors, but also across individual characteristics. The established cluster of Big Five Personality factors are: Extraversion versus Introversion, Agreeableness versus Hostility, Conscientiousness versus Lack of Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability versus Neuroticism, and Intellect/Autonomy or Openness to Experience versus Lack of Intellect/Autonomy (Digman, 1990, McCrae, 1992, Robbins and Judge, 2009). Since extraversion is associated with a predisposition to be optimistic, a relationship between extraversion and burnout tends to be negative (Piedmont, 1993). Agreeableness correlates negatively with emotional exhaustion (Deary et al., 1996, Piedmont, 1993, Zellars, Perrewe, & Hochwarter, 2000). LePine, LePine, and Jackson (2004) found a negative association between conscientiousness and emotional exhaustion. Piedmont (1993), Deary et al. (1996), and Zellars et al. (2000) reported insignificant correlation between openness and the three burnout dimensions. Bakker et al. (2006) concluded that neuroticism and extraversion appeared to be the most consistent predictors of burnout.

Conclusions and Directions for Future Research

Burnout has continued to interest researchers for nearly four decades. Despite numerous studies performed on burnout, more research is still desired. First, more research could enrich the validity of the two known instruments that measure burnout: a classical, universally implemented MBI, and a recently coined CBI. Next, little is known about the correlation between visioning behaviors and burnout (Densten, 2005). Taris, LeBlanc, Schaufeli, & Schreurs (2005) suggest studying the development of burnout by conducting a long-term longitudinal study consisting of many waves separated by short time intervals. Furthermore, the need exists for researchers to further investigate the impact leaders have on followers' burnout. Knowledge in this area will facilitate the work of leaders and organizations, as well as it will contribute to the improvement of the quality of work, staff productivity, and burnout prevention. A thorough understanding of burnout development can also facilitate early recognition of burnout among followers.


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