The Costs and Consequences of Workplace Exhaustion

Workplace exhaustion occurs as a result of being overburdened in the workplace. Long work hours, expanded organizational responsibilities, and colleague conflict can all contribute to exhaustion. When employees become emotionally or physically exhausted, they experience burnout. High rates of burnout can have a large financial impact on a company through lost productivity, low retention rates, and lost work days. Counterproductive work behaviors (CWB) can lead to undesired workplace activities such as theft, errors, and even aggression and violence. Employees who are emotionally exhausted tend to engage in counterproductive work behaviors that affect the organization as a whole (CWB-O) and their own individual well-being (CWB-I).

George C. Banks of the Department of Management at Virginia Commonwealth University recently led a study to better understand how an employee’s attitude affected the levels of CWB-I and CWB-O. For his study, Banks surveyed 113 bank employees from a company in South Korea. He had the participants and their supervisors complete the surveys to assess employee attitude and workplace behavior. “We found that emotional exhaustion significantly relates to both CWB-I and CWB-O to a similar degree,” said Banks. To be specific, Banks discovered that the participants used CWB as a way to cope with negative feelings such as stress and anxiety.

One of the most interesting findings was that of the relationship between organization commitment and CWB. Banks discovered that the employees’ level of loyalty to their company decreased as their exhaustion increased. This finding supports the general theory that attitude affects behavior. In this study, the employees with less exhaustion had more positive organization associations and therefore engaged in less CWB-I and CWB-O activities. Banks believes these results underscore the need to provide employees with opportunities to relieve workplace stress, anxiety, and depression. Interventions that provide individuals with relaxation and coping strategies could help employees improve their attitudes and behaviors and develop ways to prevent workplace exhaustion and the negative consequences that it produces.

Banks, G. C., Whelpley, C. E., Oh, I.-S., Shin, K. (2012). (How) are emotionally exhausted employees harmful? International Journal of Stress Management. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029249

Related articles:
Self-Care to Combat Anxiety
How to Combat Coworker Negativity
Ways to Manage Work-Related Job Stress

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  • Andrew

    July 30th, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    You might be forcing your employees too work off their tails but you are only hurting your own organization.Overworking employees may put in a little extra work for you but it will only result in negative consequences in the long run as nobody can sustain continued overworkjing and will eventually be demoralized.


    July 31st, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    It is like a disease.You feel the stress and anxiety and you automatically become a source of all things negative, thereby affecting others in the process too.Its best to have a work environment that is conductive to all and where no such negativity flows all around.I’d hate to work at such a place.

  • Rochelle

    August 1st, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Perhaps this is a topic I can bring to my staff meeting! From what I’ve seen working in community mental health, there’s little opportunity for examination of how burn out and attitude negatively impacts work behavior and ultimately performance.

    The number of deep sighs I hear in a day is astounding

  • Toby

    August 1st, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    I’ve been a victim of workplace exhaustion in the past.The place just felt like it was going to consume itself.Not only did it bring down my productivity and kept me stressed,but frankly it also made me engage in negative things at the workplace.In the backdrop of this finding,imagine what’s happening to all those people who are toiling away to retain their present jobs even though they suffer from workplace exhaustion.It must be like holding on to a sword’s edge even though it hurts,only because you need the money.

  • LEo

    August 5th, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Have been there so many times! I have found jobs that I love, but then once I exhibit that loyalty, it’s like they tear me down and overwork me, and then I lose any desire to work hard anymore. I know that this is the time to push forward, they must like me if they are giving me more to do right? But that’s not how I process it. I start thinking that they are taking total advantage of me, and then that really makes me step back and think more and more about what kind of incentive they are giving me to do all of this without any recognition at all. My parents I think think that I am lazy, but I just want to be compensated for my work like anyone else.

  • Maggie

    September 27th, 2014 at 4:55 AM

    Any suggestions to reward overworked loyal staff

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