The Connection between Personality and Burnout

Burnout is defined as the long-term exhaustion and the diminished interest in work among employees. Accordingly, burnout emanates chronic occupational stress with factors, such as work overload and the long working hours as the key contributors. Nevertheless, there are many evidences, which tends to point out that the etiology of burnout is multifactorial in nature with dispositional factors playing a critical role in its development. Angerer (2003) points out that burnout tends to affect individuals in highly demanding and pressurized work environments, such as mental health workers, teachers and individuals in management positions that require the constant delivery of quality results. In the DSM-5, burnout is not recognized as a distinct disorder due to its close relationship to depressive disorders. However, the ICD-10 categorizes it under the problems related to life management difficulty (Z73). It is vital to differentiate burnout from stress, as they do not have similar symptoms among individuals. For instance, a burnout is associated with disengagement, while stress is associated with over-engagement. More so, Lee and Ashforth (1996) assert that the emotions in a burnout are always blunted, while those relating to stress are usually over-reactive. Several studies have been conducted to explicate the nature of burnout and its relevant causes in the work environment.

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Current essay highlights the key findings of the articles, analyzes the validity of the information, and compares and contrasts it with similar or different studies.
Key Findings of the Article, Analysis of the Validity of the Information/Theory, and Comparison with Other Articles.

On the relationship between personality factors and burnout, the study by Langelaan, Bakker, van Doornen, and Schaufeli (2006) focused on the explication of whether individual differences contribute to burnout and engagement. The main findings of the article indicated that high neuroticism is the key burnout element, while low neuroticism in line with high extraversion, as well as high mobility levels, are important contributors to work engagement. The overall results indicated that temperament of individuals and the personality make a difference in respect to work engagement and burnout.

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Such findings are valid in the sense that they point to the significance of personality factors in terms of contributing to burnout among individuals within different areas. Their validity is also connected to the study and tests conducted on employees revealing the significant view that they have varying personalities, which do not necessarily lead to burnout in their areas of work.

A similar study by Kim, Kim, and Swanger (2009) brought out the view that burnout is primarily influenced by neuroticism, while engagement is mainly affected by personality factors, such as conscientiousness and low neuroticism. In agreement with the above findings, Kim, Kim, and Swanger (2009) concluded that positive personality factors, such as extraversion and agreeableness, could never be linked to burnout among employees in their respective work environments. Kim, Kim and Swanger (2009) agree with the above findings especially because they used similar variable and approaches in their study. They focused on limited aspects of neuroticism and extraversion, hence achieving similar findings.

Additionally, Puig, Baggs, Mixon, Park, Kim, and Lee (2012) agreed with the above findings stating that the subscales of burnout will always be at variance with the subscales of the personal wellness of the employee. The inter-correlations and multivariate multiple regressions performed in the study could have played a crucial role in leading to the similar findings about the linkage between personality factors and burnout. However, negative work environments that employees are subjected to could lead to burnout, as most of them rapidly become disinterested in their areas of work. Organizations have the challenge of ensuring the creation of improved working environments that would give employees the opportunity to work peacefully without losing interest in their works.

The locus of control is one of the key personal characteristic that needs to be understood in the explanation of the link between personality and burnout. In addition to it, Swider and Zimmerman (2010) agree with the above findings noting that the internal locus of control is strongly associated with positive work outcomes among employees. There is no relationship between the locus of control and burnout, hence, eliminating any potential contribution of such personality characteristic to its existence. Swider and Zimmerman (2010) agree on the focus on a narrower aspect of the individuals’ characteristics. They had an easier time defining the locus of control and studying its applicability to the ability of employees to deliver the desired results.

However, the study conducted by Alarcon, Eschleman, and Bowling (2009) tended to disagree with the above findings. In their study, they explicated several relationships between personality and the three factors of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Their results were differed, as they stated that personality factors, such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, locus of control, extraversion and self-efficacy, have a positive relationship with burnout. Their conclusion was that the personality of an employee has a consistent relationship with his/her burnout. They tend to differ due to the comparison of personality factors with the dimensions of the MBI, which was not done in the above two studies.

The Relationship between Stress/Depression and Burnout

In terms of differentiating stress/depression from burnout, Malach-Pines (2009) establishes that they are different in the sense that job stressors are commonly characterized by strain, while job importance factors are commonly associated with burnout. Such two different aspects of the job highlight the variance between stress and burnout among employees. The finding was connected to the psychoanalytic-existential theory that assisted in the discussion of the features of stress and burnout. Regarding the study by Malachi-Pines (2009), there is no direct relationship between stress and burnout, as they emanate from the different aspects of the work.

Such information is valid because there has always been a common confusion between stress and burnout. Many people have found it difficult to set the differences clearly. However, the findings above try to indicate that stress and burnout are different in several aspects. For instance, it is worth noting that stress is commonly characterized by over-engagement, while burnout is characterized by disengagement. The second relevant difference is that emotions are blunted in burnout, while they tend to be over-reactive in stress. The third factor that validates the finding is that stress is mostly concerned with the loss of energy, while burnout is usually associated with the loss of hope, motivation and ideals among individuals. Lastly, the findings are validated by the fact that burnout only makes and individual perceive life as not worth living, while stress could terminate it prematurely.

Nevertheless, Toker and Biron (2012) tend to differ with the above conclusion by unraveling temporal relationships between burnout and depression. They conclude that a significant increase in depression would lead to similar increase in burnout and vice-versa. Accordingly, Toker and Biron (2012) disagree with such findings due to their tendency to focus on the effect of depression on burnout and vice-versa. They have not necessarily focused on the conventional differences explained using the characteristics of burnout and depression.

Organizational Factors

Organizations contribute directly to burnout among their employees through their work schedules, work environment and other motivational factors that they are supposed to give to their employees. It is obvious that the failure of organizations to offer supportive environments to employees is one of the key contributors to the increasing levels of burnout.

In the study on work demand stressors and job performance among employees, Gilboa, Shirom, Cooper, and Fried (2008) focused on some of the job stressors that are likely to lead to ambiguity. For instance, they studied relevant factors, such as environmental uncertainty, the conflict between family and work, role conflict, role ambiguity, work overload and job insecurity, and linked them to burnout among employees. They key finding of the study is that the factors affect the attitudes and the performance of employees, which translates to burnout. Gilboa, Shirom, Cooper, and Fried (2008) concluded that organizations must move forward to address such factors to avoid the increasing levels of burnout among their members of staff. They need to work consistently towards ensuring that the environment is supportive of their employees at any given moment.

Such information is valid in the sense that it highlights the key areas that employees find motivational in the course of their working. For instance, factors such as job security and work overload affect employees directly and are always likely to influence their attitudes and commitment to work. Shih, Jiang, Klein, and Wang (2013) agree that they ultimately lose interest as a result of the uncertainties of the workplace, which translates directly to burnout. More so, the practicality of the information in terms of its applicability to contemporary organizations makes it valid in explaining what employees are already going through. In fact, most organizations have failed to determine burnout among their employees with the assumption that it is laziness or the intended loss of interest in the respective duties given to employees.

A similar study supporting such view was conducted by NG and Feldman (2008), with the primary focus on the aspect of long-working hours among employees. Just like other workplace factors, the hours allocated to employees are crucial in affecting their rate of job burnout. In tandem with their meta-analysis, NG and Feldman (2008) agreed with the above findings by concluding that the hours worked had negative associations with the measures of their well-being. It implies that it denies them the opportunity to spend some time with their families and relax their minds. Therefore, they are frequently affected by burnout. The research in current article agrees with the key findings due to their focus on one key element of the negative work environment that is being discouraged on a global scale.

Lim, Kim, Kim, Yang, and Lee (2010) also agree with the above findings in their study of work-related factors that increase the level of burnout among health professionals. They also utilized a meta-analysis setting variables that play a great role in the depersonalization and mental exhaustion of mental health workers. They agree with the view that ineffective work organization and lack of supports for employees lead to increased burnout. Depersonalization is high among older women compared to younger men in the health profession. They agree with the above findings especially because they went through studies, the review of literature and meta-analysis that gave them the opportunity to investigate the contributions of negative workplace factors to workers’ performance and dedication to the job.

A related study by Hallsten, Voss, Stark, Josephson, and Vingard (2011) utilized the self-determination theory to explicate factors that might lead to long-term sickness and absence of employees from their areas of work. They observed that organizational factors, such as work overload and long hours of working, play a critical role in leading to long-term sickness and absence among employees. Most organizations keep overworking their labor force, hence, making it difficult for them to be healthy and come to their areas of work consistently. They agreed with the view that undesirable factors in the organization, such as long working hours and loaded roles for employees, are always likely to affect their performance in the long-term. As a result, it serves as a clear sign of burnout among employees. Their agreement is connected to the view that employees should be given some breathing space in the course of fulfilling their responsibilities in the organization. It should not be assumed that they are able to work for continuous hours without adequate rest.

More so, the findings by Bowling, Eschleman, Wang, Kirkendall, and Alarcon (2010) are in agreement with the findings that poor work conditions increase the level of burnout among employees. They also did a meta-analysis focusing on organization-based self-esteem (OBSE). In respect to the above findings, they concluded that the work environment and the disposition of employees are directly related to the organization-based self-esteem. O’Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack, Hawver, and Story (2011) confirm that work-related variables play a more crucial role in affecting the interest of employees in the completion of particular tasks in the best ways. They agree with the view because the work-related factors determine the focus of employees in terms of working and delivering their expected targets. Bowling, Eschleman, Wang, Kirkendall, and Alarcon (2010) state that poor work environments affect the ability of employees to continue doing similar tasks perfectly, and it is an indication of burnout.

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In conclusion, most of the above researches agree on the different factors that relate to burnout. Burnout can never be ignored among employees especially those serving in demanding environments requiring frequent reviews or delivery of immediate results. According to Ford, Cerasoli, Higgins, and Decesare (2011), the most significant thing to note from the above findings is that personal characteristics, such as extraversion, agreeableness, locus of control and self-efficacy, are not related to burnout. They are independent of the burnout that employees experience in the course of performing their duties. However, high neuroticism is a clear indication of burnout among employees. The best way to differentiate burnout from stress is to use their symptoms. As much as they appear similar in some aspects, burnout results from disengagement, while stress is a cause of over-engagement. Poor working environments in terms of long-working hours, job overloads, imbalance between work and family and job pressures increase burnouts. As a result, the organizations have the responsibility of looking into such matter and solving it in the most appropriate manner by establishing appropriate work environments that give employees the opportunity to relax and associate with other people.

Limitations and Future Research

The most significant limitation of the above studies is that they did not offer recommendations on the number of hours that men and women should be allowed to work on a weekly basis to prevent burnout. Organizations need to have a clear vision of what is expected of them so they could work appropriately toward addressing the problem.

The second limitation is that there was no significant distinction of factors that might lead to burnout in both white collar and blue-collar jobs. It would have been easier and more interesting on the part of the reader to receive such detailed information. Moreover, it assists in the understanding of any differences in the level of burnout for the two groups of employees.

Future research needs to focus on appropriate measures that could help organizations alleviate instances of burnout among their employees. Every organization seems to have established its own system, and some of such systems are not serving the purpose appropriately. Therefore, future research must be concerned with the development of a standard means of addressing the problem across all organizations.

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