Monday, April 18, 2011

What Causes Burnout?

Burn OutFor some reason, the topic of "burnout" has really been coming up in conversations lately. By burnout, I mean when people get to a point of frustration, exhaustion, or some other issue where they just...well...burn out. They start falling away, dropping responsibilities, and no longer want to be a part of something. I think specifically of people who volunteer in a church.

Maybe you've been at that point sometime in the past. You were passionately involved, but the responsibilities/demands just kept increasing. Things at home got more complicated, your real job was still demanding, the rest of life didn't want to slow down and allow your volunteering to take on a life of its own. Eventually you were looking at a few main aspects of your life; maybe just family, volunteering, and your job...and realizing that one of these 3 needed to go. That you just couldn't handle it anymore. So you let one go, and we all know which of the 3 it was.

The other day as I was lounging around on a couch in the office working diligently reviewing some small group curriculum, I started to think about burnout. Causes, solutions, systems to help prevent it or alleviate it, etc. I then scribbled all these things on our giant white looked a bit absurd. But I wanted to share with you a list I composed of the causes of burnout.

I think that you can never solve a problem until you properly understand it. And I'm trying desperately to understand it. I see what happens to people when they get burned out...and I am unwilling to be a cause. So I need to make sure I'm not doing things that lead to burnout.

Causes of burnout (a not-so-thorough list)

  • People are not valued. If we're honest, the rest of this list is just an exercise in expanding upon this one overarching theme

  • People feel/are used

  • They're not appreciated

  • They're not communicated with

  • Feel like they're just a name to fill a slot

  • Or a number to fill a roster

  • They're given too many tasks

  • They're pulled in too many different directions

  • They're given unclear expectations (if any at all)

  • They're given responsibility, and not authority

  • Feel they have no ownership of their work

  • And no control for that matter

  • The environment they serve in is chaotic

  • They're not respected

  • They are surrounded by negativity

*Edits: These next points were added from people on twitter/facebook/comments, thanks!*

  • Felt that they were only valued because they were completing tasks

  • Volunteers were matched with the wrong job, didn't play to their strengths & passions

  • Improper or insufficient training for the volunteer who was leading them

  • Overcommitment. The feeling that you need/want to do everything at church

  • Lack of help

For me, many of those issues hit close to home. I've felt in the past (in some ways still feel) many of them. I know where they lead. And I'm not ok with that happening.

Curious to hear your thoughts. Have you experienced burnout before...or seen someone who has? Do you have some things to add to this list? Let me know!