Attitude of Gratitude Reduces Workplace Burnout

Workplace burnout occurs in nearly every profession. Even people who genuinely enjoy their jobs can experience exhaustion and overwhelm in the workplace. For mental health professionals, the risk of burnout is extremely high. Psychologists, counselors, and other mental health experts are exposed to extremely emotional situations and invest immense amounts of time, energy, and personal interest in their clients, which can deplete their own emotional resources. Burnout can have significant negative impacts on professions, including high turnover, absenteeism, and low cooperation. In addition, individual consequences of burnout include increased stress, risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, sleep problems, and other negative health outcomes.

The importance of decreasing workplace burnout cannot be understated. Interventions have emerged that focus on ways to improve workplace functionality and well-being. One avenue for doing this includes increasing gratitude in and out of the workplace setting. Michelle E. Lanham of the Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio wanted to evaluate the effect of gratitude on workplace burnout. In a recent study, Lanham assessed the levels of job satisfaction and burnout among 65 professionals in the mental health field. The participants reported their levels of hope, job satisfaction, particular job variables, burnout, and gratitude.

Lanham found that the participants who had high levels of work-related gratitude were more emotionally exhausted but more satisfied with their jobs than those with less gratitude. She also found that dispositional gratitude, gratitude unrelated to work, predicted a higher sense of personal achievement. This suggests that dispositional gratitude may have an indirect effect on general emotions of positivity, such as optimism and hope.

Although the sample size in this study was rather small and evaluations were based on only one snapshot in time, the results have important implications. Lanham believes that interventions that strive to improve gratitude, through daily journaling or other means, may improve overall gratitude, both personally and professionally. Another unique method for expressing gratitude that could have far-reaching benefits is through letter writing. If an individual writes a letter of gratitude to a co-worker, and then shares the letter with that person, the impact could be significant. This strategy has yet to be fully tested, but Lanham hopes her study will motivate additional research in this area. “Future research should examine which types of interventions, if any, are most effective in reducing burnout and enhancing workplace satisfaction,” she added.

Lanham, Michelle E., Mark S. Rye, Liza S. Rimsky, and Sydney R. Weill. How gratitude relates to burnout and job satisfaction in mental health professionals. Journal of Mental Health Counseling 34.4 (2012): 341-54. Print.

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  • vickie l

    November 14th, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Sometimes I think that we have lost the notion that we should have gratitude toward others at all anymore, in work or in life.
    We have lost all sense of taking care of others or treating others how we would want to be treated. It’s as if the Golden Rule no longer applies.
    How did this happen? How did we lose all sense of our responsibility and caring for others? I hate that this is what we have all boiled down to- just the uncaring and unfeeling masses only looking out for ourselves and never stoppping too much to think of the many ways that the actions of others could impact us in a positive way.

  • nicola

    November 14th, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    I’ve always wondered why people just cannot be nice to everybody around them. That would solve so many problems for all of us, isn’t it?

    Co-workers work at the same place and spend a considerable part of the day with ech other. And yet there is so much jealousy, backbiting an whatnot at the workplace. If everybody could be just as proactive in appreciating others as they are putting down others, the world would be a much much better place!

  • Marie

    November 15th, 2012 at 3:43 AM

    It’s the little things that matter the most. Just a simple thank you or acknowledgement that someone recognizes that your work has contributed in a positive way to their effectiveness is enough to keep most of us a little more motivated than we may have previously been.

    But some people find it hard (why?!) to give credit where credit is due. They want to hold back and do more to make themselves look good instead of giving a little shout out to those around them who have all made it happen by working together.

  • LUCY

    November 15th, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    At my last job, I got really burnt out until I figured out something very important. I was too worried about other people I perceived weren’t doing their jobs. Once I focused on my job and quit worrying about everyone else, I wasn’t burnt out anymore. Lesson learned.

  • Melissa

    November 15th, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    I think I will try this next week. There are some people who do really well at my work and they deserve to be recognized, even if it doesn’t help me much. But, I’ll try anything to feel better about going to work every day.

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