Job Burnout

Stressed woman talking on phoneJob burnout is a concept in organizational psychology. Burnout occurs when a person’s working environment is so toxic or stressful that they can no longer see value in their work. While job burnout is not considered a mental health diagnosis, it is a real phenomenon that can affect numerous areas of a person’s life.

What Causes Job Burnout?

The increasingly high-stress, high-stakes pace of working life greatly increases workers’ chances of job burnout. Certain workplace issues can heavily influence an individual’s risk of becoming burned out. Some common risk factors include:

  • Dysfunctional Workplace Dynamics – Fighting between employees, sexual harassment, and other varieties of a hostile or toxic work environment can all increase job burnout risk.
  • Unclear Job Expectations – When a person does not know what is expected of him or her on the job, he or she is increasingly likely to feel stress and burnout.
  • Different Values – When a person works at a job that does not represent his or her values, he or she is more likely to burn out. For example, an environmental activist who values clean energy but works for an oil company is at increased risk for dissatisfaction at work and consequent job burnout.
  • No Control – Employees who have no control over their work or workplace, or who work for overbearing bosses may burn out more quickly.

What Are the Symptoms of Job Burnout?

Because job burnout is not considered an illness, it does not have specific symptoms. However, people experiencing job burnout may feel incompetent at work, may dread going to work, and may grow increasingly resentful of their jobs. A person’s job performance may suffer, and their interpersonal relationships can also be affected negatively. Oftentimes the best “cure” for job burnout is a new job or a new set of responsibilities at the current job.

Job Burnout In Popular Culture

Job burnout is a popular theme in pop culture because many workers will experience job burnout at some point during their careers and can relate to stories portraying workplace stress and burnout. Perhaps one of the most widely known movies featuring job burnout is the modern day cult-classic film, Office Space (1999). This movie features the extreme behaviors taken by disgruntled employees working for a large software firm. In the 2011 fictional movie Horrible Bosses, job burnout was taken to the extreme when a group of friends conspired to murder their overbearing bosses. Viewers were encouraged to identify these would-be murderers as heroes to whom they could relate, suggesting that job burnout and manager resentment are both common and relatable experiences in American culture.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2010, October 02). Job burnout. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 01-9-2018

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