Being on Fire at Work and not Burn Out

Fueling Good

Being on Fire at Work and not Burn Out

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The Irony of Passion at Work

It makes senses, doesn’t it? Being on fire at work predisposes one to burnout. But yet, we all want to go home at the end of the day feeling “fuelled” by meaningful work.

Jennifer Moss recently wrote an article on Harvard Business Review about the topic and we could not help but really agree with her.

Here’s an executive summary of the article:

  1. Do not believe the unhealthy mindset about how “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”.
  2. People who are involved in purpose-driven work are at risk of burning out.
  3. The key to thriving at work is a harmonious passion, rather than obsessive passion which breeds burnout.
  4. Mission-focused, non-profit staff, teachers/principals, nurses, and doctors are some of the people most at-risk for burnout. And If you are in such a career, you may wish to also be inspired by one of many quotations handpicked by us below.
  5. Other organizational factors can cause burnout as well, for example, when leaders:
    1. equating long hours with getting ahead,
    2. perpetuates an implicit expectation that staff should come to work despite mental and physical illness,
    3. “always on” working culture where digital boundaries are absent, and/or
    4. culture e.g. where production-focused and remote working environments places relationships at the back burner, which in turn increases loneliness
  6. What we can do:
    1. Learning to set boundaries.
      “… We need to teach people that setting boundaries is OK. It’s not selfish. It’s actually selfless. It allows you to be more effective at what you do, and to better [help] those you wish to serve.” ~ Dr Edward Ellison.
    2. Management changes.
      “… it’s the responsibility of leaders “to keep an eye on the well-being of their staff.” She suggests specific tactics that include monitoring “indirect indices,” such as employee absences and turnover, as well as having clear policies in place so that bullying, undermining, and even whistleblowing can be dealt with without people feeling that they are putting their jobs on the line.” ~ Dr. Caroline Elton
    3. Ditch the “R” word; resilience.
      Do this because burnout is not solely an individual’s issue but one of the organization’s as well. To tackle the problem, it takes a systemic approach and the “R” word does nothing but suggests that
      individuals should be able to avoid or recover from burnout on their own.

Thriving in Purpose-Driven Work

In her book “In It For the Long Haul: Overcoming Burnout and Passion Fatigue as Social Justice Change Agents”, Kathy Obear explains why it is so difficult to self-care for ourselves, especially when we are working in work for the greater good.

… We are so focused on creating change, being of service, and taking care of others, we most often ignore our own needs and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good. We feel we can never disengage, never disconnect, and never let up for even a moment.”

And when our work involves working with people, we have to recognize that there are good days and there are bad days. We have to recognize that we have finite personal resources and we need to manage how much they affect us:

People inspire you or they drain you. Pick them wisely.” ~ Hans F. Hansen

Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.” ~ Unknown Author

At the end of the day, you being able to continue in your purpose-driven work in a thriving manner is the best gift for humanity.

You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.” ~ Farnoosh Brock

Prevent and overcome burnout in life. Find out how you can thrive as a person and at work. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Help yourself to the articles on this website.
  2. Join our free 12-day devotional challenge on preventing and overcoming burnout with God.
  3. Join our programmes or bring them to your workplaces, ministries and communities.
  4. Join our mailing list to be kept updated of events.

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Being on Fire at Work and not Burn Out

by James Lim
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