Jennifer Moss is the author of the ‘Burnout Endemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It, and she co-founded a Data Research Technology Company with her husband.
The Inception and Writing Process of the Brand New Book
For various reasons, Mrs. Moss embarked on the journey to write her book based on her experiences with burnout. She had her fair share of struggles as a company co-founder, especially as a female executive.
Moreover, Mrs. Moss had been focusing for many years on finding the origins of happiness within a working environment. Her infinite knowledge of the matter facilitated her initiating the quest to eliminate the terrible effects of chronic stress.
Mrs. Moss conducted her research for the new book solely through organizations of interest. Specifically, wellness in the various working facilities has been a subject of interest for Mrs. Moss for many years.
She has been researching chronic stress in working environments since 2013, and she noticed that the anxiety levels have been piling up at an alarming level throughout the years. The worrying part has been the inability to relate probable causes to the emergence of these unparalleled heights of stress.
Mrs. Moss began documenting her gathered data and authoring her book before the pandemic. The unprecedented changes the novel virus caused in the corporate world shifted the dynamic in an unknown direction thus far.
A Long Overdue Conflict
Mrs. Moss had to change her manuscript as changing the dynamics of the employees-employers relationship could not be taken lightly. The pandemic acted as a significant accelerant in a long-time ticking bomb.
The long-time ticking bomb was the employees’ frustration with a rapid decline in their quality of life in an inflationary time. These struggling times brought forth the revolutionary movement of our times called the ‘Quiet Quitting’.
The latter refers to the post-pandemic tendency of the employees to accomplish the bare minimum tasks according to the contract duties. ‘Quiet quitting’ is the repercussion of lengthy overtime, ungratefulness from the employers, low wages, and imbalance in personal-working life.
According to Mrs. Moss, the employers’ stance that their personnel is unreasonable is entirely paradoxical. The corporate world leaders paved the way for these alleged unfounded demands when they presented their greedy and capitalistic aspects.
Blaming other people who seek the maximization of their profits is merely the application of double standards. The most significant conundrum derived from the latest frictions was whether or not the employees should resume their presence in the office.
Prominent figures, such as Elon Musk and Malcolm Gladwell, were adamant about returning their employees to the office. The opposite notion from the workforce would have had grim consequences for their long-term company future.
Mrs. Moss does not agree with any of the two opposing parties. She claims that both of them should ponder their arguments’ limitations and realize their current predicament.
Regarding the physical presence in the office or not, Mrs. Moss opts for demolishing the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Some people cannot work from the warmth of their homes and yearn for their noisy and crowded offices. The presence of their colleagues feeds their outgoing spirit and skyrockets their performance.
The Conflict Escalates-The ‘Quiet Quitting’ Movement
Unfortunately, the time is not ripe yet for such an advanced level of open-mindedness. The conflict between the two opposing sides has escalated, and the movement of ‘Quiet Quitting’ has emerged.
‘Quiet Quitting’ has no positive outcome and originated due to the burnout of the employees. Their once quest for the elusive promotion has concluded due to the following thinking process:
1) The pandemic wrought havoc in the market, and many colossal companies have collapsed
2) Robust projections in such an unstable environment are not feasible, and the inflationary trend tightens the noose.
3) The employees understand that their efforts all these years were in vain.
4) They missed invaluable personal moments, and their stress levels soared throughout their futile attempts for promotion.
5) They resorted to concluding the bare-minimum tasks stated in their contracts. There was no more working late or attending meaningless social events for public relationships.
6) The employees initiated the state disengagement, and most felt burned out.
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Jennifer outlines the six root causes of burnout that she’s found in her work:
For people to thrive at work, basic things must be in place—what she calls “good hygiene.” This includes paying people what they’re worth (and on time), ensuring they are physically and mentally safe, and providing the necessary tools and resources to do their jobs. It also means ensuring that discriminatory practices are not part of your workplace culture.
Beyond that, there are six main reasons people tend to burn out at work, and she writes—each of them with a potential workplace solution:
1. Workload. Overwork is a leading cause of burnout. Working too many hours is responsible for the deaths of millions of people every year, likely because overwork makes people suffer weight loss, body pain, exhaustion, high levels of cortisol, sleep loss, and more.
Yet telling people to “just say no” to working more is bound to backfire, says Moss. People recognize that working less is interpreted as not showing initiative or not stepping up, and it may be punished formally or informally.
Instead, says Moss, employers need to help identify low-priority goals for their employees (so people don’t push themselves too hard to meet goals that aren’t urgent), match people’s strengths to their job duties, provide more support when needs change suddenly and have open and safe lines of communication, where feedback is encouraged, and people can admit to mistakes. She also suggests implementing a four-day workweek, promoting frequent walking breaks, and eliminating “work lunches” to help lessen workloads.
2. Perceived lack of control. Studies show that autonomy at work is essential for well-being, and being micromanaged is particularly de-motivating to employees. Yet many employers fail to watch their employees’ every move, control their work schedule, or punish them for missteps. Instead, says Moss, it’s crucial to help employees feel a sense of autonomy by backing off and acting more as a coach. Sure, it helps if you hire people with the right skills in the first place. But you can also increase autonomy by inviting employees to ask questions and express their needs, letting people set their schedules and goals, and encouraging employees to find meaning in their jobs, writes Moss.
3. Lack of reward or recognition. Paying someone what they are worth is a meaningful way to reward them for their work. But so is communicating to people that their efforts matter.
Of course, rewards and recognition must be genuine, not fake or manipulative. And while it’s essential to express appreciation for a job well done, it’s also vital to avoid pitting employees against one another or recognizing only certain people. Moss cautions employers not to implement recognition programs that elevate one part of a team over another. These instill jealousy or anger if people feel overlooked or believe the awards are excessive. She suggests gratitude from top leadership and peer-to-peer appreciation—not just for meeting work goals but for showing empathy and care for colleagues.
4. Poor relationships. Having a sense of belonging is necessary for mental health and well-being. This is true at work as much as it is in life. When people feel part of a community, they are more likely to thrive. As a Gallup poll found, having social connections at work is essential. “Employees who have best friends at work identify significantly higher levels of healthy stress management, even though they experience the same stress levels,” the authors write. Of course, the opposite is also true—that poor relationships at work can lead to burnout. That’s why Moss suggests that employers pay attention to social needs and give people spaces where they can connect with colleagues around non-work-related topics. Encouraging volunteerism and building more inclusive cultures that are less competitive and cooperative is also helpful.
5. Lack of fairness. Unfair treatment includes “bias, favoritism, mistreatment by a coworker or supervisor, and unfair compensation and corporate policies,” writes Moss. When people are treated unjustly, they are likely to burn out and need more sick time.
Moss suggests that organizations must have complaint mechanisms, respond to every grievance, and act promptly to resolve issues. Otherwise, resentment is bound to fester and grow. Additionally, unfair treatment due to racial or gender bias must be rooted out, as discrimination substantially boosts the chance of burnout.
6. Values mismatch. It’s likely that someone who doesn’t share in the organization’s mission will be unhappy and unproductive, too.
Values mismatches may be avoided through the hiring process. But workers can also become disillusioned if an organization doesn’t stand up for its values, leading to withdrawal. Organizations that communicate values clearly and strive to fulfill their mission will more likely have satisfied employees.
The Nature of Burnout
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an occupational phenomenon, and it is the workplace or institutional stress left unmanaged. Burnout has the following primary symptoms:
1) High depletion levels, meaning extreme periods of low energy and fatigue.
3) Volatile behavior
4) Stomach programs.
Mrs. Moss addresses the most usual reason for burnout in her new book: unsustainable workload. An unsustainable workload occurs when the employee’s presence is required more than the regular program. This program causes an unparalleled lack of autonomy for the individual employee, and he becomes a puppet to his master.
Furthermore, Mrs. Moss claims that the middle managers of a company have the highest possibility of acquiring burnout syndrome due to their tendency to overcompensate all the time. This tendency stems from the need to appease every leader of the company.
Evolutionarily, people ceased to be curious, leading to apathy and several incidents occurring under our noses. The younger generations are on the verge of developing practices that lessen the incidence and severity of burnout.
In Wrapping Up
Mrs. Moss states that the techniques that facilitate avoiding burnout are the following:
1) Avoid embarking on an unsustainable workload. This means no more overtime and late emails.
2) Proper education at all levels of the company. The future of a company lies in the acquisition of proper knowledge.
3) Adoption of a healthy lifestyle
4) Consultation with a licensed therapist.
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