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New Visual Scale Offers Simple Measure to Help Identify Job Burnout

This study shows that the new scale is comparable to existing measures

University of Notre Dame

“Job burnout” is a term that’s far too familiar to many people. A 2020 Gallup poll showed that 76 percent of employed Americans surveyed have experienced burnout.

Perhaps due to the condition’s prevalence, the World Health Organization recently reclassified burnout in its International Classification of Diseases as an occupational syndrome resulting from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Employees and employers, across industries, are increasingly experiencing the harmful effects of chronic stress at work. Job burnout can lead to reduced productivity, increased absences and leaves, job turnover, and even hospitalization. 

Existing methods of identifying job burnout are lengthy and sometimes proprietary, but new research from the University of Notre Dame offers a faster and easier way.

“Matches Measure: A Visual Scale of Job Burnout” is forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology from lead author Cindy Muir (Zapata), professor of management and organization at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, along with Charles Calderwood from Virginia Tech and Dorian Boncoeur, assistant professor of management and organization at Mendoza.

“Because the Matches Measure is a visual measure, it makes assessing burnout as quick and easy as it gets—across countries even,” Muir (Zapata) said. “It eliminates one of the reasons organizations fail to assess their employees regularly: time. By using the Matches Measure, managers and organizations can better understand how prevalent job burnout is amongst their employees and how it fluctuates over time.”

Similar to the smiley face pain scale used in doctors’ offices and hospitals (Wong-Baker FACES), the Matches Measure describes burnout (“Job burnout refers to feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted”) and instructs employees to “select the match that best represents how burned out you currently feel.”

Across multiple pre-registered studies surveying more than 1,200 participants in various industries, this research demonstrates that the visual scale is comparable to existing burnout measures, including the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The Matches Measure similarly relates to the known predictors and consequences of job burnout, yet uses a more efficient, intuitive scale. 

The study concludes, “Given the advantages of a short, visual measure—reduced participant fatigue, the reduced need for translating feelings into words and increased participant understanding, there is ample evidence to motivate future scholars to rely on the Matches Measure rather than shortening existing burnout scales.”

- This press release was originally published on the University of Notre Dame website