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23 Jun 2008 / Julie

Coping with Burnout (or how to stay aflame)

I attended a Staff Development opportunity at BCPL back in June on Coping with Burnout. It was presented by Sandy Lombardo and Louis Sica of the BCPL Staff Development Committee.

I was expecting more of the “how to solve” burnout than the “how to recognize and prevent,” but still found the session useful. Here are my notes/thoughts:

You are burned out if you dread going to work in the morning, feel overwhelmed, hopeless, futile, or insecure or think the only way to fix the problems are to get a new job or win the lotto.

Burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion that results in decreased work production. Work avoidance is the primary characteristic. Emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishments are signs.

  • Public Library Staff exhibit higher rates of burning out than other library staff.
  • Emotional exhaustion: feeling empty *and* overwhelmed.
  • stress is a psychological and/or physiological response to the PERCEPTION of a demand or challenge.

Factors of Job Satisfaction:

  1. Futility and Avoidance
    • you stop doing the things that no longer have meaning. Sense of futility leads to avoidance. apathy sets in. I think the key to the whole burnout thing is to remain connected to your work, your customers, and it’s meaning. without it, you’re not doing meaningful work, just meaningless tasks- which you quickly drop because “life is too short.”
  2. Professional self-esteem
    • cultivating professional self-esteem
      • offer challenging assignments
      • stretch abilities
      • develop “go to” people
      • offer guidelines for best practices
      • practice positive feedback
      • maintain realistic standards of evaluation
  3. working conditions
    • You need organizational support. Like flexible scheduling.
  4. job related affect
  5. achievement support
  6. self-actualization
    • a meaningful sense of connection with customers needs to be fostered

Causes of stress:

  • Change. (my note: the lack of change is also a cause of stress.)
  • lack of people, time, money
  • “those people”: customers don’t understand what we do
    • (my note: only because we don’t tell them what we do. we need to set up expectations through day to day work and effective and ubiquitous marketing.)
  • security issues
  • the problem that won’t go away
  • technostress

What do you do?

  • get involved & grow. change up your work assignments, join a professional org or committee
  • transfer, job shadow/sharing/exchange
  • celebrate successes
  • strive for good customer service (internal and external). happy, satisfied people make you feel good too
  • “let go” when something goes wrong. review for improvement, don’t take customer comments personally.
  • escape. create a “vacation area” for staff. keep relaxation triggers in your personal area. take a REAL vacation.
  • reevaluate your job. stop trying to do everything. prioritize. set realistic goals. don’t procrastinate.
  • burnout didn’t happen overnight and should be addressed in stages. burnout may have been caused by work, but effects all areas of life.
  • harness creativity. creative thinking can spark enthusiasm. the right idea can decrease stress by improving or altering a process. boost your own morale.
  • use other coping strategies: exercise. take breaks. cultivate positive relationships outside of work. seek support from others in the profession. develop a new skill or take up a new hobby. blogs can be cathartic, social networks can help you stay connected.

If all else fails:

  • leave of absence
  • keep an updated resume
  • explore employment transitions.

See for a Burnout Assessment.

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