Locations:
Search IconSearch

7 Red Flags of Job Burnout — and What You Can Do

Expert tips to change your perspective

Woman unhappy and not challenged by her job

A healthy dose of pressure at work can give you fuel — and make you even better at what you do. Job-related burnout, on the other hand, empties you out and kills your motivation. If it lingers too long, it also can negatively affect your feelings about life.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The good news is you can take steps to reverse job burnout. You also can avoid it altogether if you pay attention to the signs.

When stress is prolonged

“Workplace burnout involves a prolonged and heightened response to work stress in which a person becomes drained from work demand,” says clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD.

He says to be on guard if you notice these signs:

  • Your performance at work is declining.
  • Your efficiency at work is dropping.
  • You’re losing confidence that you can achieve your goals.
  • You avoid work-related tasks.
  • You feel exhausted.
  • You’ve lost interest in your work.

“Engaging in tasks that feel meaningless can promote burnout,” Dr. Bea says.

“However, if something in your work effort is consistent with your commitments and values, each day can be an opportunity to live these values in a tangible manner.”

For example, people in caregiving professions can notice positive results with their consistent effort to help others.

It depends on where you place your attention.

“Try to notice the rightness of your work effort and the positive outcomes rather than dwelling on the stressors, obstacles or negative characteristics of work,” he says.

Emotions are a tip-off

Before you experience job burnout, your feelings will give you some clues that something is amiss. If you’re not sure if you’re just going through a rough patch or heading down the road to burnout, here are seven questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you feeling cynical or negative about work, and are these feelings escalating?
  2. Is your motivation decreasing?
  3. Is it becoming difficult to perform work-related problem solving?
  4. Do you feel yourself getting more agitated or angry at work?
  5. Are interpersonal difficulties at work spilling over into your home life?
  6. Do you feel depressed as a result of work-related stress?
  7. Is work-related stress causing you anxiety?

If you answered yes to many of the questions above, there are various ways to address these feelings for a healthier outlook.

Advertisement

Change your perspective

“Come to work intending to ‘give your gift’ as an alternative to approaching work fearfully about outcomes or penalties,” Dr. Bea says. “It helps when we lean into the experience with positive energy and a positive belief in ourselves.”

Here are some other in-the-trenches strategies to fight burnout:

  • Establish good self-care: Maintain healthy habits such as exercise, nutrition and interpersonal connections. Limit the use of quick fixes such as alcohol, nicotine or drug use.
  • Set healthy limits: Find a way to manage expectations in your workplace so that you don’t become overextended.
  • Keep a healthy pace: Strive to get into the flow of your work, and take periodic breaks.
  • Develop a mindfulness practice: Rehearse being aware of the present moment, rather than getting into thoughts about the future or past in a way that escalates tension.
  • Take breaks from electronic devices: Do this at predetermined intervals so that you are not “always on.”
  • Attach your work efforts to something you value: Notice how your work makes something in the world, the culture, or in other people’s lives better.
  • Be yourself. Do what you can to reduce the strain of having to project some image that is not authentic.

If you are struggling over a prolonged period, you also want to consider the source of your feelings. Is it that you are not a match for this particular career? Or is it that the work, and amount, has gotten beyond your control? It may be time to consider a change or talk with a supervisor about workloads or roles.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

A person's emotional storm raining down on someone else
April 22, 2024/Mental Health
Vicarious Trauma: What To Do When Others’ Distress Impacts Your Well-Being

Absorbing others’ trauma can take a big toll on your own mental health

person eating a small lunch alone at desk at the office
March 8, 2024/Digestive
How To Cope With Ulcerative Colitis at Work

Talk to your employer, ask for accommodations and manage your stress

Person on couch writing in their journal to find stress relief.
June 4, 2023/Mental Health
12 Ways To Recover From Burnout

Start by seeing a healthcare provider to rule out conditions with similar symptoms

A couple talks while sitting on a bench in the park, with clouds in the background.
May 24, 2023/Sex & Relationships
7 Ways To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Notetaking, intention setting and practicing with friends can help you be a better listener

colleagues at work talking and laughing while walking down hallway.
April 26, 2023/Mental Health
How To Set Personal Boundaries at Work

Decide what you’re OK sharing, respect others and speak up if you feel uncomfortable

Person working at a treadmill desk.
January 18, 2023/Exercise & Fitness
6 Desk Exercises That Help You Get Stronger While Working

You can do squats, planks, pushups or even a get in a quick run all without leaving your desk

Person stressed and worried about work, sittin at home.
January 9, 2023/Wellness
Your Definitive Guide to Work Stress and Burnout

From ‘Sunday scaries’ to microaggressions, you can learn to navigate your workplace woes

An illustration of a person sitting at a desk with a computer and cactus
July 4, 2022/Eye Care
6 Tips To Help Combat Computer Vision Syndrome

Nonstop screen time can strain your eyes

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad