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The psychosocial risks out to get you: burnout vs boreout

Reading Time of Article: 4 min

There’s no longer a taboo about burnout (1). This type of professional exhaustion is a depressive state associated with having an excessive workload and/or suffering from stress. Although originally associated with the caring professions, it is now recognised that it affects people in all types of job. It is triggered by constant, prolonged exposure to stress at work. It is more commonly associated with jobs that involve greater mental and emotional demands, positions of responsibility or jobs in which targets are difficult or indeed impossible to meet. Senior managers and executives are therefore at risk, as are people who invest a lot emotionally in their work. The causes of burnout are as varied as the professional situations people work in: long working hours, too much work, pressure of deadlines, monotonous work, etc.

Too Much vs Not enough 

As if burnout was not enough, a new type of occupational stress syndrome affecting senior managers and executives has now been identified: boreout (2). A psychological disorder caused by a lack of work, this modern syndrome is on the increase and mainly affects tertiary sector employees. In situations where there is not enough work to do, employees often interpret this lack of responsibility as a lack of recognition. This causes negative emotions and strong psychological tensions (shame, doubt, stress, etc.) to arise. These internal sources of pressure can lead to a rapid loss of motivation. Add to this a job that is not quite what the employee had hoped for (in terms of pay, promotion, career development, social networking, enjoyment, etc.) and you have an activity completely lacking in interest.

If you have experience of either burnout or boreout, please tell us about it or leave a comment.

(1) The first research to be done on burnout is attributed to psychiatrist and psychotherapist Herbert Freudenburg in 1974. However, the concept of burnout is mentioned as early as 1959 by Frenchman Claude Veil.

(2) Swiss business consultants Philippe Rothlin and Peter R. Werder have published several books on boreout: Diagnose Boreout, Excerpt from Boreout, which proves that this syndrome is becoming increasingly important in scientific literature. (The term boreout comes from the verb ‘to be bored’.)

 

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