Burnout strikes employees when they have exhausted their physical or emotional strength. This usually occurs as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. Sometimes the cause is the work environment. Stressful jobs, lack of support and resources, and tight deadlines can all contribute to burnout. Other times, burnout has more to do with employees' expectations of themselves or their personal circumstances.

Burnout can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • Frustration or indifference toward work
  • Persistent irritability
  • Anger, sarcasm, or being argumentative
  • Exhaustion
  • Absenteeism

All of these things can drain an organization's morale—as well as its wallet. Burned-out employees can be costly in terms of productivity, and if burned-out employees quit, there are the costs of replacement searches and training.

While burnout can't always be prevented, it can be managed. In order to effectively manage employee burnout, people need to

  • Understand the reasons for burnout
  • Find mutually agreeable solutions
  • Rekindle employee motivation

Only people with repetitive, low-paying, and low-prestige jobs burn out, right?

This is not true. People with well-paying, high-profile jobs with interesting assignments can burn out as well. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers some ways for an employer to find out if there is too much stress placed on employees

  • Hold group discussions with employees
  • Design an employee survey
  • Measure employees' perceptions of job conditions, stress, health, and satisfaction
  • Collect and analyze data to identify problems and stressful conditions

After you identify the sources of stress and form a plan for your company you can prioritize your solutions. Hold an all-organization meeting and talk about possible solutions. Then follow through.

Besides employee retention, here are some good reasons to work towards preventing employee burnout:

  • Healthcare expenditures may increase for workers who report high levels of stress
  • Stressful working conditions may interfere with safe work practices and set the stage for work-related injuries
  • Increased absenteeism and tardiness, both signs of burnout, hurt the bottom line