Bakers Journal

Battling burnout

January 8, 2014
By Erick Lauber

Jan. 8, 2014 –
Erick Lauber discusses how a sense of teamwork and inner accomplishment are factors that may help to motivate employees who are feeling burnt out and not enjoying work as much as they used to.

Jan. 8, 2014 – Gloria wasn’t happy at work. It wasn’t that
she hated her job or anything like that. Her co-workers were fine and she
didn’t mind the type of work that she did. In fact, she thought she did it
pretty well. Of course, she wanted more money, but who didn’t? No, something
else was bothering her. At some basic level she simply didn’t enjoy coming to
work. Whatever excitement or sense of accomplishment she used to get had been
replaced by a lack of motivation.

Gloria’s issue was a common one. Employees
around the world sometimes lose sight of what makes their work worthwhile. They
get run-down, burnt out and de-motivated. At times like these it can be
difficult for anyone to enjoy work and find the old levels of motivation and

To help Gloria and the millions like her,
it is necessary to look at the underlying causes. Why do any of us enjoy work?
And can we re-ignite those causes in our own work environment? The answer is yes.
There are at least six different reasons why we enjoy work, ignoring money, of


The remarkable time and energy some people
put in to their work can only be understood as an inner drive – they simply
want to achieve that goal. Seeking a personal sense of accomplishment natural
and can be harnessed everyday by millions of workers and employers. It can be
described as “taking pride in one’s work” or a sense that “this is what I was
meant to do.” Whether the objectives are short-term or long-term, making
progress toward a goal makes all of us feel good.

The greater

Many of us are also motivated by a sense of
community; the feeling that we are part of something larger and that life isn’t
just about our own individual needs and wants. Millions experience this
particular joy and peace as they volunteer for church or service club tasks,
but it can also be encouraged in the workplace. For example, it is thought that
many Asian/Eastern companies reinforce this message. Clearly many Americans are
also motivated by community considerations. Perhaps Gloria could be encouraged
to reframe her circumstances and see how she is contributing to the greater


Many get enjoyment from the individual
relationships they experience at work. It helps them look forward to each day.
The laughter, the camaraderie, the forgiveness and even the occasional stress
are all something they enjoy and know they wouldn’t want to live without. But
not everyone is the same, and certainly we’re not all our best self every
single day. Enlightened managers will respect this basic human need to connect
with others and allow it, if not encourage it, in their workplace. Has Gloria’s
manager given her the opportunity to connect with others?  Has he diagnosed that this is something
important to her?

of team

Similarly, some people enjoy a special
sense of completeness and wholeness by experiencing being part of a team. In
the workplace, many employers work hard to encourage this shared identity by
conducting internal PR and messaging campaigns. For quieter teammates, a sense
of camaraderie might provide an extremely important opportunity to connect and
feel like they belong. Does Gloria feel she’s part of a team? How much team
spirit has her boss created?


For some, a special sense of joy comes from
physical exertion and the absence of it makes any job less appealing. It just
doesn’t feel like work if they aren’t breaking a sweat or doing battle with the
weather. This is partly a product of socialization and might be tied up with
what work means to them.

Modern day psychology re-affirms the
benefits from physical labour. We all know how endorphins can give us a slight
high and everyone knows about the stress-management benefits from working out?
Is getting physical a way for Gloria to battle her lack of motivation? If her
job is sedentary, does her employer even offer a get-in-shape program?


Finally, a great many of us enjoy the
special mental feeling that comes from exercising our creativity or satisfying
our curiosity. The small euphoria that comes from developing something new or
conquering a complex problem can be for a big part of enjoying work for some.
Does Gloria’s boss know whether she’s incredibly bored or frustrated by her
tasks? Is it time for a promotion, or perhaps a little job engineering to offer
a chance at being creative?

So, what can be done more generally to help
employees enjoy their work? Or what can Gloria or any employee do themselves?
The answer is simple: treat the cause, not the symptoms. Instead of worrying
about symptoms like aggressive behaviour or poor attitude, employees and
employers can create a more enjoyable work environment by directly addressing
one or more of these common denominators. Why not casually interview Gloria
about whether she feels connected to her fellow co-workers? Does she have any
friends at work? Why not ask, “Is this job challenging enough?” or “would you
like the opportunity to be more creative?” Stepping back and reflecting on each
of these six motivators can guide any manager or employee toward a more
enjoyable work place. There is hope for Gloria in the application of modern day
psychology to the workplace.

Lauber, Ph.D., is an applied psychologist and faculty at Indiana University of
Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on leadership, personal growth and
development, and taking charge of our own life stories. He has won 19
educational TV/film awards and has been published in numerous psychology
journals and book chapters. His video log is located at
Lauber can be reached at, or by phone at 724-464-7460.



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