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  • Writer's picturePsychotherapy forYou

Identifying Strategies to Alleviate Corporate Burnout.


I can’t do this anymore.” John shook his head angrily while avoiding eye contact. “I am fed-up and angry. I need the space to be creative and innovative and I just end up feeling overwhelmed and under-supported.”

I had been supporting John for a few weeks now. John is a former athlete and family man in his early 40’s navigating corporate burnout. 

“John, from what I am hearing, it seems like you are searching for the autonomy to find meaning and purpose in your work.”  

Classic burnout, I thought to myself. 

As a Registered Psychotherapist, the topic of many of my sessions is the misalignment of meaning and purpose in the corporate sector. John displayed classic clinical presentations of corporate burnout and it wasn’t necessarily the concept of employment that was impacting his low moods, but finding professional impetus within his set of conditions. 

Viktor Frankl said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstance, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, discusses the importance of existential meaning and purpose in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. In his writing, he shares the detrimental impact that loss of meaning and purpose can have on a person’s motivation and well-being. 

   When an individual is experiencing a lack of meaning and purpose in their work, it can often result in corporate burnout. This type of stress on the brain and body stems from low autonomy, high-demand workloads, misaligned values, and unsequenced priorities. Consequently, this has a significant impact at the corporate level when considering learning capacity, motivation, and professional development. Burnout is a prolonged exposure response leading to professional inefficiency and reduced personal satisfaction (Maslach & Leiter, 2016). The consequences of impaired personal, social, and professional functioning contribute to reduced employee health and well-being.

Identifying burnout:

The onset of Stress: Irritability, anxiety, poor sleep hygiene, and reduced productivity. 

Chronic Stress: Cynicism, resentment, exhaustion, interpersonal impact. 

Critical Burnout: Sense of failure or letting others down, emotional depletion, overwhelming despair, helplessness, and hopelessness. 

Habitual Burnout: Chronic struggle to function, functional freeze with loss of personal identity.  

    In working with individuals experiencing corporate burnout, the most significant challenge seems to be the process of gaining compassion or empathy from individuals in leadership roles.  Common traits include low levels of support amongst management teams and a lack of approachability. Further to this, providing feedback to a leadership team is often intimidating or not well received. This dismissal or invalidating workplace experience can leave an employee feeling helpless or hopeless which ignites the beginning stages of clinical depression. A common coexisting condition of depression is anxiety, which if unacknowledged or untreated, will manifest at a somatic (bodily) level. This is the point at which an individual will begin to experience pain or illness in the body with no diagnosable cause. 

    Inadequate corporate culture or leadership qualities that are not conducive to the needs of the employees will often contribute to low employee engagement and increased levels of burnout. Additionally, potential unacknowledged or undiagnosed neurodiversity that exists in the workplace can further stratify an already complex system. A common pattern exists where employees will refrain from taking the time they are entitled to due to the guilt and pressure they feel from senior management. Amongst many employees, shame and stigma are also associated with taking a very beneficial mental health leave. Mike Shoreman, a resilience educator and mental health spokesperson explains that “If you have internal employee wellness programs but your people are afraid to use them, that’s not an accessible support system.” Recurring patterns within the workplace such as numerous employees on sick leave or extended time off, speaks to an adverse corporate culture that is unconducive to the existential requirements of the workforce. An empirical and multidimensional focus on building a balanced and approachable pathway to the employment experience is key to creating a thriving and productive workplace.

Combating Burnout Through Meaning and Purpose. 

Collaboratively, employees can maintain their psychological safety by building self-awareness and balance, recognizing their energetic capacity, advocating for themselves, and creating healthy boundaries with work. Dismantling burnout through finding meaning and purpose in your work is a good place to start. Executive Coach Andy Martiniello, describes the concept of getting clear on your “why.” This includes reliving some meaningful moments in your work to highlight your contributions and how they impact you and all of your stakeholders (i.e. colleagues, clients, family, etc.) Andy also suggests building on your relationships at work and elaborates on the idea that productivity and overall sense of well-being increase when we work with people we consider friends. Further to this, becoming involved in mentorship is a good way to pay it forward and create meaningful relationships within your organization.   

Ways to increase levels of autonomy

  • Build self-efficacy, Think about your narrative surrounding your ability to succeed. (Self-efficacy specifies an understanding of your capacity to implement and attain control over your own environment).

  • Build confidence through learning new skills and competencies.

How to decrease high-demand workloads

  • Develop organizational strategies.

  • Plan collaboratively.

  • Vocalize concerns and ask for needs to be met when discussing with superiors.

Realigning values

  • Get clear on what your core values are.

  • Set goals and intentions.

  • Take action to overcome your obstacles.

  • Check-in with the narrative you created and identify your inner critic.

Reframing priorities

  • Transform a task into something more meaningful that gives purpose to your work.

  • Recalibrate priorities that align with your core values.

By: Stef Wood M.A., R.P.

Andy Martiniello - Executive Coach

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3 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great Job!

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