Burnt-out workers: is there a way out?

Ilya Ageev
Bumble Tech
Published in
25 min readAug 8, 2019

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You work at a good company. You are surrounded by great professionals, you earn a decent salary and every day you carry out important and needful tasks. Elon Musk is launching satellites, Boston Dynamics’ robots are getting better and better. The weather is great, the sun is shining, nature is in bloom — life is wonderful!

But on your team you have Irwin and he is down: Irwin is always moody, cynical and weary. He is an excellent specialist in his field, he has been working for the company for a long time and knows how everything works. Everyone would like to help Irwin. Especially you, because you are his manager. But, when you talk to him, you yourself start to feel there is so much injustice around. And you start to get down yourself. And it is especially worrying, of course, if you happen to be Irwin.

What do you do? How can you work with Irwin? Read on.

I have been working at Badoo for almost eight years and head up a large quality control department. I have 80 people reporting to me. And today I want to discuss with you a problem which sooner or later everyone working in the realm of IT encounters.

Burnout can be called different things: emotional burnout, professional burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome etc. In this article I am only going to talk about what I term ‘burnout’ i.e. burnout as it relates to our particular professional activity.

I should point out that Irwin is a composite character. As the saying goes, any similarity to actual persons is purely coincidental.

Burnout: what is it?

This is more or less what someone looks like if they are burnt-out. We have all seen this many times over and an explanation of what burnt-out people are like is hardly necessary. Nevertheless, allow me to provide a definition.

If we were to attempt to sum up what burnout is, we might arrive at the following list:

  • Fatigue that doesn’t go away
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Aversion to work, procrastination
  • Heightened irritability, cynicism and negativism
  • Reduced enthusiasm and activity and an inability to believe that things can get better
  • Black-and-white thinking and a feeling of ‘just couldn’t care less’.

Currently, the ICD (International Classification of Diseases) defines professional burnout as part of a wider category, namely exhaustion. In 2022 the WHO plans to move to a new revision of ICD, revision 11, which will define professional burnout more specifically. According to ICD-10, professional burnout is a syndrome acknowledged to be the result of chronic stress that has not been successfully managed.

It should be pointed out that burnout is not an illness, but rather a medical condition which can lead to illness. And this condition is characterised by three things:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

Before moving on, let’s clarify what we mean by ‘normal’. In actual fact, smiling and being positive all the time isn’t normal either. A fool lifteth up his voice with laughter; but a wise man doth scarce smile a little (Ecclesiastes 21:20). Being sad from time to time is normal. It only becomes a problem when it goes on for a long time.

What are the most common causes of professional burnout? Of course, lack of rest, constant ‘fires’ and the need to ‘firefight’ on an emergency basis. But it is also important to understand that even working in stable conditions, if it is unclear how results are to be assessed, what the direction is, professional burnout is a risk here too.

It should also be remembered that negativity is contagious. Entire departments and even entire companies can become infected with the ‘virus’ of professional burnout, from which they gradually die.

And the negative effects of professional burnout are not just a drop in productivity and a deterioration in the working atmosphere, but they can also manifest in tangible health problems. These can include psychological as well as psychosomatic disorders.

The principle danger or risk for professionals is that mental work drains energy. The more we use something or the more often, the higher the likelihood that in future problems will occur precisely with that ‘something’. Professional sportspeople experience problems with their arteries and muscles, while those engaged in cerebral work experience problems with their mind.

What happens in the minds of those experiencing burnout?

In order to understand how a person’s mind works, we need to look back in history and see how the human mind evolved.

Structurally-speaking the brain might be compared to a cabbage or a layered pastry: new layers, as it were, grow on top of old ones. Three main sections of the human brain may be identified: the reptile brain which is responsible for basic instincts along the lines of ‘fight or flight’, the middle or animal brain, which is responsible for emotions, and the neocortex, the newest parts of the brain, which is responsible for rational thought and which makes us human.

The more ancient parts of the brain appeared so long ago that they have had time to undergo evolutionary ‘polishing’. The reptile brain appeared around 100 million years ago. The mammal brain appeared around 50 million years ago. The neocortex started to develop only around 1.5 to 2 million years ago. And the Homo sapiens species is not more than 100,000 years old.

So, the older parts of the brain are ‘less clever’ from a logical point of view, but they are much faster and stronger than our neocortex. I really like Maxim Dorofeev’s analogy of a Trans-Siberian train travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok. Imagine that this train is travelling full of unhinged youths and petty criminals. And then, shortly before arriving in Vladivostok, somewhere in the Russian Far East, a boffin in spectacles gets on and tries to reason with the crowd. Hard to imagine, right? Similarly, the rational part of our brain is often unable to call to order our emotional reactions. The latter is simply stronger.

Right, so we have an ancient part of our brain which is fast but not always smart, and the newest part, which is smart, is able to think in abstract terms and to create logical trains of thought, but which is very slow and requires a lot of energy. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winner and the founding father of cognitive psychology, called these two parts of the brain ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’. According to Kahneman, this is how our mind works: information first of all arrives at System 1, the faster of the two, and, if it has one, it provides a solution, or, if it doesn’t have a solution, it passes the information on to System 2.

You can demonstrate how these two systems work in various ways. Look at this picture of a smiling young woman.

All we need to do is take a quick look at her and we can see that she is smiling. We do not analyse every part of her face separately; we don’t think about the corners of her mouth being raised, or the corners of her eyes turned down etc. Straightaway we understand that the young woman is smiling. This is System 1 at work.

3255 * 100 = ?

Or take this simple mathematical example which we can solve without thinking about it, using the mental rule, “Take two zeros from the hundred and add them to the first number.” We don’t even need to perform a calculation; the answer is clear straightaway. This is System 1 at work.

3255 * 7 = ?

Here, even though seven is less than 100, it takes us longer to arrive at the answer. We have to calculate it. And each person will do so their own particular way: one will go for long multiplication; another will multiply 3,255 by 10, then 3,255 by 3, and finally subtract the second number from the first; while yet another person again will just give up and reach for their calculator. This is System 2 in operation.

Kahneman then adds another interesting detail to this experiment: you are walking with a friend, and as you walk, you ask them to solve this problem. It is highly likely that they will stand still in order to do the calculation. This is because System 2 is VERY energy-intensive and, at that moment, the brain is not even able to run the ‘program’ for moving from point A to point B at the same time.

What conclusion can we draw? The fact that this is a very powerful mechanism which can be used for learning is thanks to automaticity. This is how we learn to type, to drive and to play musical instruments. First, we think through each step, each movement with the help of System 2. And then, gradually, we move the acquired skills out to the remit of System 1 in the interests of economy and faster reaction. These are some of the great ways our minds work.

However, there are drawbacks, too. Automaticity and a desire to act according to System 1 means we often act without first thinking things through. And, moreover, this complicated system has bugs. They are called cognitive biases. These may be likeable foibles which don’t get in the way of life, or they may be obvious implementation bugs.

Generalisation of specific cases. This is when, based on insignificant facts, we draw major conclusions. We see that the biscuits that have been delivered to the office are all broken and we draw the conclusion that the company is not good enough and is falling apart.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or the illusion of frequency. The essence of this phenomenon is that, once a given event has occurred, if we encounter the same event again, the event in question appears to be unusually common. For example, we have bought a blue car and we are surprised when we start noticing lots of blue cars around. Or a couple of times we noticed that product managers had made a mistake and, ever since then, now all we notice is them making mistakes.

Confirmation bias: when we only pay attention to information which confirms our own views and take no notice of facts that contradict our views. For example, if we have negative thoughts in our mind, we only pay attention to negative events, while not noticing positive changes at the company.

Fundamental attribution error: I am special, I’m not like everyone else, like D’Artagnan in the Three Musketeers. This is when we are prone to explain others’ mistakes in terms of their personal characteristics, and ascribe their achievements to luck, while in our own case it’s the other way around. For example, a colleague whose actions caused production to go down is a bad person, while, if I did the same thing, then it was bad luck and it could have happened to anyone.

The Just World phenomenon: when we believe that there is some higher justice in the name of which everyone should act.

Do you notice anything? “Yes, that’s typical thinking for people who are burnt out,” you say. And I say to you, “It’s typical thinking for all of us.”

How cognitive biases work may be illustrated in the following way: take a look at this picture. We see a smiling young woman. We even recognise the actress, Jennifer Aniston. This all comes from System 1; there is no need to think.

However, if we turn this picture around, we see something very scary. System 1 refuses to grasp this.

Nevertheless, we drew wide-ranging conclusions when looking at the first picture.

Here is another example which illustrates how we perceive reality wrongly when we are concentrating on something. So, imagine two teams: a team in black strip and the other one in white. The white players only throw the ball to white players and the black players only to the black players. Those taking part in the experiment were asked to count the number of passes by the white players. At the end they were asked how many passes were made and, also, a second question: did they see a person in a gorilla costume? It turns out that in the middle of the game a person came out onto the pitch in a gorilla costume and even performed a little dance. But most of those taking part in the experiment did not see them, because they were busy counting the number of passes.

Likewise, a person focused on the negative, only sees negative things around them and does not notice positive things.

There are lots of cognitive biases and their existence has been confirmed by scientific experiments i.e. a scientific method: a hypothesis is formulated, and an experiment carried out during the course of which the hypothesis is either confirmed or refuted.

The situation becomes much more serious due given that people’s lives nowadays are radically different from those of our ancestors, while the structure of our brain has not changed. Nearly everyone has a smartphone. Every spare minute we check to see what’s new in the virtual world: who has uploaded what to Instagram, what’s going on on Facebook. We have instant access to all the world’s libraries. In fact, there is so much information that we are not only unable to digest it, but we cannot even take it in. Life itself is not long enough to take it in and master it.

The result? Brain overload.

So, a burnt-out person is someone who feels constantly down. They have negative thoughts, and cognitive biases prevent them from breaking out of what is a spiral of negativity:

  • A burnt-out colleague’s brain is telling them in all sorts of ways that they need to change the way their life has usually been — whence procrastination and aversion to one’s responsibilities;
  • This person hears everything fine, but fails to understand, because they have other values; they perceive the world through a different lens;
  • It is pointless saying to them, “Smile; the sun is shining! Everything’s fine; what’s wrong with you?” This sort of talk, on the contrary, can send them deeper into negativity, because they are still able to think logically, and they can remember that the sun and everything else used to make them happy, but doesn’t anymore;
  • This sort of person, so it is said, has a more sober view on life, because they don’t view things through rose-tinted spectacles; they are able to see all the negativity which surrounds us. At the same time, people who are focused on the positive simply don’t notice these things.

Here’s a joke. A guy is driving in a new car past a mental hospital and a wheel comes off his car. He has a spare wheel, but the problem is that the bolts have flown off into the ditch along with the old wheel. So, he is standing around not knowing what to do. There are several patients sitting on the fence. They say to him, “Unscrew one bolt from each of the other wheels and use them to screw on the spare. You won’t be able to travel fast, but you will make it to the nearest garage.” The guy answers, “What a great idea. What are you doing here? Your thinking is fine.” They answer him, “We are psychos, mate, not idiots; our logical reasoning is fine.” Similarly, we should bear in mind that our burnt-out colleagues don’t have a problem with logical reasoning either.

It should be pointed out that the word ‘depression’, which has become popular today, is something different. Major Depressive Disorder is an entirely medical diagnosis which only a doctor can issue. If we are down, but, after having an ice-cream and taking a bath with candles and bath salts, the feeling passes, then that is not depression. Depression is when you are lying on the sofa and you realise that you haven’t eaten anything for three days, the room next to you is on fire, and you don’t care. If you notice this happening to you, you should see a doctor straightaway.

How to organise work with someone who is burnt-out

How can you sustain the workflow while lifting up a burnt-out colleague whose motivation is at rock bottom? Let’s see.

For a start you need to be clear that you are not a professional psychologist and you cannot treat the grown-up in question as if they were a child. They are already grown-up. The bulk of the work to get someone out of a state of burnout is down to that colleague themselves. Our task is to focus on assisting them.

For a start, you just need to listen to them. Remember what we said about negative thoughts making someone focus on the negative? That means that a burnt-out colleague is a most valuable source of information on whatever is working less than optimally at the company or department. Our priorities and those of our colleague may differ, as may the means to improve the situation. However, here is someone who is able to show us everything that’s not going right — that’s a fact. So, listen to your colleague carefully.

Consider the option of a change of scenery. This is not always possible in every case but moving a burn-out colleague to a different activity may give them a breather and buy some time. This might be a move to another department, or even to another company; this happens too and is normal. It should be borne in mind that, while this is the simplest way, it may not always be the most effective, because in most cases this may be a change in appearance only, rather than substance. If, for example, someone used to make sites on Joomla, and at the new company they are going to be making sites on WordPress, virtually nothing has changed. They will be doing more or less the same thing, the novelty will wear off quickly and burnout can happen again.

Now let’s talk about what to do with a burnt-out colleague’s daily tasks.

This is where my beloved situational leadership model from Hersey and Blanchard comes in handy. This postulates that there is no one-size-fits-all leadership style which managers can apply for all members of staff and all tasks. On the contrary, management styles should be chosen based on the specific task and the specific person carrying out that task.

This model introduces the notion of the level of task maturity. In all, there are four such levels. Depending on two parameters — namely a colleague’s professional expertise vis-à-vis a specific task and their motivation — we determine the level of task maturity. This will be the minimum value based on these two parameters.

Correspondingly, leadership style depends on the employee’s level of task maturity and may be directing, coaching, supporting or delegating.

  1. In the case of a directing style, we give specific instructions and orders and scrupulously monitor each step taken by the person carrying out the task.
  2. In the case of supporting, the same thing happens but we also explain why they need to act in this way rather than another, thus ‘selling’ the decisions made.
  3. In the case of a coaching leadership style, we help the employee to make decisions.
  4. In the case of delegating, we delegate the task completely with minimal involvement.

Clearly, burnt-out colleagues, even if they are experts in their field, are not able to work at a task maturity level higher than Level 2, since they are not prepared to take responsibility.

Thus, it is the manager who bears the responsibility. And we need to work towards moving burnt-out colleagues up to higher levels of task maturity, raising their motivation. Let’s talk about this.

Helping a burnt-out colleague to increase their motivation

Emergency measure number one: lower demands. You are no longer dealing with a daring and alert Irwin who could rewrite the whole project to a new framework overnight and work non-stop. You may be able to get that Irwin back, but that is not where he is at right now.

Emergency measure number two: break down tasks. Do so in such a way that they can be resolved with less effort. Remove from the task words such as ‘study, find, analyse, convince, find out’ and other words which imply an undefined set of actions which should lead to completion of the task. Set smaller-scale tasks: ‘set up, run, call, appoint’ etc. The very fact that Irwin is able to complete clearly formulated tasks will motivate him and lift him out of procrastination. You don’t have to break the tasks down yourself and give Irwin a ready-made list; depending on his expertise and your relationship, breaking tasks down is something you can do together.

Emergency measure number three: lay down specific criteria for completion of the task and quality assessment of the work. How will you both know that the task has been completed? How will you assess how successful it has been? It is essential that this is formulated clearly and agreed in advance.

Emergency measure number four: use the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Skinner’s good old Behaviorism. But we need to bear in mind that, in the case of a burnt-out colleague, it is going to be far more about ‘carrot’ than about ‘stick’. This is called ‘positive stimulation’ and the method is widely used both for performing animals and in child-raising. I strongly recommend the book by Karen Pryor, “Don’t shoot the dog!” This is about positive stimulation and you may well find the approaches she describes useful in practice.

Emergency measure number five: focus on the positive. By this I don’t in any sense mean that you need to go up to Irwin more often, tapping him on the shoulder and telling him to smile. As I have already mentioned, this will only make things worse. My thought is that often, when dealing with completed tasks, we focus on problems. We are all logical and pragmatic; it seems the right thing to do: discuss the mistakes, think about how to avoid them in future and off we go. As a result, we often miss the opportunity to discuss successes and achievements. We should be shouting these from the rooftops, publicising them, showing everybody how great we are.

Right, that’s the emergency measures covered, let’s move on.

What to do to prevent burnout

What is absolutely necessary:

  1. Specifically formulate long-term and short-term goals.
  2. Stimulate time-outs for colleagues: force them to take holidays, reduce the number of work crises, overtime etc.
  3. Stimulate colleagues’ professional development. They need a challenge. And when development work is going calmly, when all processes have been set up, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to get a challenge from. All the same, even a colleague attending an ordinary meetup can breathe fresh air into the staff body.
  4. Move away from unnecessary competition. Woe betide the leader who turns their staff against one another. For example, a leader who tells two employees that they are both candidates to become second-in-command. Or, when implementing a new framework, promising a sweet reward to whoever does the best job. The only thing this sort of practice achieves is encouraging backstabbing.
  5. Giving feedback. By this I don’t even mean a formal meeting one-to-one at which you, having gathered your thoughts and cleared your throat, try to tell your employee what they have done well and what they have done badly. Often what is missing is even just saying thank you. Personally, I prefer informal interaction in an informal setting and consider this far more effective than formal meetings according to the rulebook.

What is desirable:

  1. Become an informal leader. As I have already said, this is very important — far more important and more effective than formal leadership. Often an informal leader has even more power and means of influence than a formal leader.
  2. Know your employees: their interests, hobbies, family relationships, their birthdays etc.
  3. Create a positive environment: this guarantees creative work. Engage in a bit of self-advertising: show everyone the great things that you are doing.
  4. Don’t forget that your employees are, above all, people with their own strengths and weaknesses.

And one final piece of management advice: talk to your colleagues. But remember that your words need to be followed up by actions. One of the most important characteristics of a leader is the ability to answer for their words. Be a leader! Walk the talk!

What do you do if you are the one who is Irwin?

It turns out you are the one who is down; you have become Irwin. You have started to suspect it, or colleagues and those close to you have said that you have changed recently. How do you keep going?

The simplest and cheapest way is to leave. But the simplest way is by no means always the best. You cannot escape from yourself. And the fact that your brain is calling for changes does not always mean that your job is what you need to change. Rather you need to change your lifestyle. What’s more, I know lots of cases where leaving just made things worse. Although, to be fair, I also know of cases where the opposite is true.

If you do actually decide to leave the company, do it in a grown-up way. Hand things over. Leave well. There is a view that companies find it easier to say goodbye to burnt-out colleagues than to work with burnout. It seems to me that this harks back to the time when burnout was mainly to be observed in professions which involved working with people: doctors, teachers, cashiers etc. It was probably easier in those days because no-one was irreplaceable. But now, when companies are fighting for talented staff and are prepared to offer a whole range of benefits just so that people come to them, losing a good expert in their field is an unjustifiably expensive loss. So, let me assure you: a normal company won’t benefit from you leaving. And if an employer finds it simpler for you to leave, then your fears as to whether it is a good company or not will have been justified and you need to leave without regret.

What if you have decided to combat burnout? I have got some news for you — both good news and bad news. The bad news is that your greatest enemy, the one who got you into this state, is yourself. And the good news is that your greatest friend, the one who can get you out of this state, is also yourself. Remember how your brain is crying out for your life to change? And that’s what we are going to do.

1. Talk to your boss

Open dialogue is the key to solving any problems. If you don’t do anything, then nothing will change. And if you show this article to your boss, then that will make things even easier.

2. Focus on what brings you joy

First and foremost, in your personal life, outside the office. No one other than you knows what is good for you and what is bad for you. Do more of the things that bring you joy and get rid of the things which get you down. Don’t read the news and remove politics from your life altogether. Watch films you like and listen to music you like. Go to places you like: to the park, to the theatre, to a club. Diarise ‘doing something nice for myself’ (on a daily basis).

3. Relax

Go on holiday. Put a reminder in your phone, smart watch or computer to make sure you take regular breaks during the course of the day. Just walk over to the window and stare out at the birds. Given your brain and your eyes a chance to relax.

  • Training yourself up, physically and mentally, is about doing as much as you can and then a bit more. But, after that, you have to relax; only then is progress possible. If you don’t relax, stress isn’t training you up; it is killing you.
  • A rule that works really well is this: when you leave the office, forget about work!

4. Change your habits

Take a walk in the fresh air. Get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to your home or office. Take a cold shower. Give up smoking. Change your long-established habits — that’s what your brain wants!

5. Make a daily routine

This will make it easier to monitor and stimulate changes. Make sure you get enough sleep; biorhythms are important. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (you will be surprised how that helps you to get better sleep than if you hang about in clubs until late at night on work days).

6. Do sport

You may have known the saying, “Mens sana in corpore sano,” for as long as you can remember. That’s maybe why we don’t pay enough attention to it. But it is true; there is a very strong correlation between physical and psychological health. That’s why it is important to do sport. Start with something small: five minutes exercise in the morning.

  1. Do three pull-ups, then slowly increase to five pull-ups.
  2. Go jogging for 15 minutes.
  3. Sign up for yoga or swimming.
  4. Just make sure you don’t set yourself the goal of running a marathon or becoming an Olympic champion. You won’t achieve it and will have to give up. Start small.

7. Make a to-do list

This yields excellent results — from the fact that you won’t be forgetting things to the fact that you won’t still be asking yourself why you are so exhausted while seemingly not having achieved anything.

  • Ticking boxes is calming in and of itself. A person who is burnt-out wants stability. Having a to-do list in front of you and gradually ticking off what you have done is very motivating.
  • However, once again, start slowly: if your list is too long with tasks which are too big this will cause you to doubt your own ability and to give up what you have started.

8. Take up hobbies

Remember what you wanted to try your hand at when you were a child, but never got round to doing? Take up drawing, music, wood-burn art or cross-stitch. Learn to cook. Go out into the wilds or go fishing. Who knows what activity might appeal to you?

9. Work with your hands

Get out of your apartment. Sweep the stairwell clean. Collect rubbish from the children’s playground. Fix the door to the cupboard which has been loose for ages. Chop some firewood for that elderly lady. Clear the weeds from the allotment. Make a flower bed in the yard. Physically tire yourself out and then have a good night’s sleep: your mind will be clear (no negative thoughts!) and you will discover that along with the physical tiredness your psychological weariness will also go away.

In Russian instead of ‘carrot and stick’ the saying is, ‘whip and biscuit’. The meaning is the same, namely reward for correct behaviour and punishment for wrong behaviour.

There is one big drawback with this method: it doesn’t work well unless a trainer is nearby. In the absence of regular training, all the skills you acquire will gradually be lost. However, the wonderful thing is that this method can be applied in relation to oneself. You can view it as rational System 2 training irrational System 1. And it really does work. Reward yourself for having done what you set out to do.

For example, when I started going to the gym, I didn’t much want to get up in the mornings to go and lift weights. I think this will be familiar to lots of people. So, this is the condition I set for myself: if I go to gym, I will allow myself to go to the sauna. And I really love going to the sauna. That is how I got into the habit. And now I get a rush from going to the gym even without the sauna.

If all that I have listed seems an insurmountable task and you don’t feel like giving it a try, you probably need to go to see the doctor straightaway. The chances are that your condition is already too far advanced. But bear in mind the doctor isn’t going to give you a magic pill that will make everything better straightaway. Even if you go to see the doctor, you will still need to work at things yourself.

For future reference: learn to say ‘No’ and to listen to what others are saying to you. Remember that cognitive biases often get in the way of us — and indeed others — seeing a true picture of the way things are. Abandon your hyper sense of responsibility and your perfectionism. Remember that you don’t owe anyone anything. And vice versa.

By no means am I telling you to go crazy right now and start doing whatever comes into your head. Doing what you want to do is not the same as not doing what you don’t want to do. Next time when you find yourself doing something you don’t like, just ask yourself, “How did I get into this situation in the first place?”

Maybe at some point you should have just said ‘No’.

Perhaps, working on a given task, you are trying to achieve some ideal solution which will be ideal only for you, in the name of some ideals which you have created for yourself.

Perhaps you are doing this because you ‘have to’ and because that’s what everyone else does. Generally, beware of the word ‘have to’. Says who? Why? Often, lurking behind this word, someone is manipulating you. Make a trip to your local animal rescue centre. It will blow your mind to realise that someone can just love you. Not because you do great projects. Not because you meet deadlines. But just for being you.

Irwin is closer than you think

You might be saying, “Where did you get all this from? You seem pretty sure of yourself.”

Let me tell you; this is my experience. It is the experience of my colleagues, those who report to me and of my bosses. These are mistakes and achievements I have seen first-hand. And the actions I am suggesting really do work and have been used in various situations to varying degrees.

Unfortunately, when I encountered burnout I didn’t have all this advice, as you do now. If I had, I would have made far fewer mistakes. That’s why I very much hope you will find these guidelines helpful, so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

Dear Irwin

We have come to the end of the story and I want to say something to you personally.

Remember, it is your life. You, and only you, are able to make it better. You are master of your own emotional state.

Next time someone says to you, “Smile. What’s up with you? Everything will be fine,” don’t get down and don’t beat yourself up for not being all smiles.

Only you are able to decide when to be sad and when to smile.

Look after yourself!

Books and authors mentioned in the article:

  1. Karen Pryor, “Don’t shoot the dog!”
  2. Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, fast and slow.”
  3. Daniel Goleman, “Emotional intelligence”

Some other books you might want to read:

  1. Patrick Lencioni, “Three signs of a miserable job”
  2. Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Roseburg & A. Eagle, “How Google works”
  3. Aaron Beck, John Rush, Brian Shaw & Gary Emery, “Cognitive therapy of depression”
  4. Aaron Beck & A. Freeman, “Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders”

Article references:

  1. Occupational burnout — Wikipedia
  2. Situational leadership — Wikipedia
  3. Cognitive bias — Wikipedia
  4. List of cognitive biases — Wikipedia
  5. International classification of diseases: the professional syndrome of emotional burnout
  6. Tim Urban’s talk on TED
  7. ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics

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