Article: Career expert Keith Spencer on burnout and toxic work

Life @ Work

Career expert Keith Spencer on burnout and toxic work

Burnout can trigger a vicious cycle that makes work all the more toxic.
Career expert Keith Spencer on burnout and toxic work

Burnout is getting the best of workers (88%). Worse, it’s translating into feelings of rage, according to a new workplace study.

“We know, [burnout] is a serious issue, but the sheer number of people affected by it was startling,” said Keith Spencer, a career expert at MyPerfectResume, which conducted the study.

Apart from workers experiencing symptoms of burnout, some have expressed their negativity through “rage applying” (90%) while others have had an outburst, or more, at work (87%).

“These three factors are not only concerning in nature, but impacting a large portion of the workforce,” Spencer told People Matters.

What is rage applying – and why is it harmful?

Rage applying, Spencer explained, happens when job seekers apply to a large volume of jobs “impulsively and without much consideration, often due to frustration or desperation with their current workplace”.

A classic sign of rage applying includes job seekers going for positions that don’t match their profile. Such a mismatch can result in multiple rejections, which can then “exacerbate the negative feelings they are already experiencing,” Spencer said.

“On the other hand, it could also result in a worker accepting a position that is wrong for them just to get out of their current situation. In many cases, that can contribute to even longer-term job dissatisfaction.”

Employers who invest in a proper recruitment strategy can get shortchanged – inundated with applications from people who aren’t invested in the screening process or job role.

“Rage applying can overwhelm recruiters with applications from candidates who may not be genuinely interested or qualified for the position in question,” Spencer said. “When high-performers turn to rage-applying, it could lead to multiple job offers from companies eager to snatch up top talent that is unhappy with their current workplace.”

Outbursts from frustrated workers and their impact on others

What’s scarier than the emergence of rage-applying workers is the rise of disgruntled employees who often take out their pent-up anger and frustration on others.

People express negative feelings around their burnout differently, with men more likely to yell at a colleague (30%) and women more likely to leave work early or storm out of a meeting (27%). Both sexes, however, are not above threatening to quit their jobs (28% and 27% respectively), the study found.

Yet, while feelings of burnout are experienced on an individual level, the impact – once the frustration boils over – can be felt by the entire team.

“Workplace outbursts, like yelling at colleagues or threatening to quit, undermine trust and respect among co-workers, creating a negative atmosphere that hinders collaboration and productivity,” Spencer said.

“These behaviours often signal deeper issues, such as poor communication or leadership, fostering employee discomfort and distraction.”

An outburst from a frustrated employee “runs the risk of creating a toxic work environment,” the career expert warned.

Beyond attitude problems, productivity also takes a hit

“Consequently, workflow is disrupted and energy is diverted from important tasks to focus on dealing with the outburst and its aftermath,” Spencer said.

“Addressing these behaviours is vital for maintaining a positive work environment conducive to productivity and employee well-being.”

Burnout can therefore trigger a vicious cycle that affects how an employer attracts and retains good employees.

“When you put all of these pieces together, our study should serve as a warning for employers who aren’t taking burnout seriously,” Spencer said.

How employers can address the burnout epidemic

Employers aren’t responding to this crisis quickly or aggressively enough, the data suggest.

“This is an urgent situation, and employers must treat it as such before there are serious workplace impacts,” said Spencer, who outlined the following strategies for fostering a healthier workforce:

  • Endorsing work-life balance through flexible hours
  • Encouraging adequate time off
  • Having clear job descriptions and work expectations for every role
  • Enhancing wellness support offerings

“Ignoring widespread burnout is not a viable option,” Spencer said.

“It shouldn’t just be lip service either. The best way for leaders to encourage healthy behaviours is to lead by example. Practise what you preach and show your employees that it’s OK to step away and recharge.”

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Topics: Life @ Work, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Recruitment, Culture, #Wellbeing

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