From CNN datelined May 28: “Burnout is an official medical diagnosis, WHO says.” This could be a much-needed brace for fatigued workaholics. On the other hand, it could come to represent a convenient shelter for those on the lookout for opportunities to abscond.
Burnout could represent numerous conditions. Thankfully, the World Health Organization, was careful to identify three criteria. First, there has to be feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; second, increased medical distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and, third, reduced professional efficacy.
So far, so good; but for employers and managers, this could mean a can of woes, if unfair advantage is taken through misuse by workers and medical practitioners. It opens the door for diagnosis abuse, and gaming the system.
There is one more condition to burnout diagnosis: “Doctors should first rule out adjustment disorder as well as anxiety and mood disorders limited to work environments specifically.”
Now to dissect. Anxiety and mood disorders are very real; overwork, too. But the latter only in extreme situations, and not when there is emphasis on work life balance; interest in extended maternity leave; consideration of paternity leave (not bad either). Can this be afforded by small struggling agencies?
Next, feelings of negativism or cynicism about one’s job are universal in even dream jobs and superior environments. They don’t have to be medically powered: could be the usual shortfalls: poor pay; poor working conditions and benefits; poor management; a supervisor from hell; a hostile environment (think of the incorruptible employee in a corrupt Guyanese working world); or discrimination.
Reduced professional efficacy can be self-induced as in deliberate and calculating: stick it to them. Payback for all the traumas and trials, result of all of the foregoing.
Clearly, the world in recent times has changed: more understanding, more benevolent, more tolerant of human physical frailties. But is this taking things too far? Third World countries, including Guyana, know of forefathers, who walked miles daily from dawn to dusk, with basket on their heads, and in all weather and terrain.
Women were very much in the goings and comings. Slaves and, to a much lesser extent, indentured servants toiled under the most harrowing conditions and survived on a diet that would maltreat a snail. Now there is this talk of burnout, stressed out, and fallout. Separately, and by any measure, when politics and elections are considered, all Guyana is burnout country, given the levels of “negativism and cynicism” prevalent.
Today, there are those who work 16-hour days routinely, six-day work weeks, yearlong, and never take a holiday for years. They work on Sundays, holidays, high holy days, birthdays, weddings, even funerals. How that is managed is anyone’s guess. But they do so for years on end. If they were to be approached on this development and diagnosis, their reaction is sure to be: burnout? What is that?
Guyanese emigrants, and emigrants in general, gird mind and muscle to work round-the-clock, while beating the books, just to emerge ahead of the pack in the rat races of advanced foreign societies. The stresses are unimaginable; but palpably there.
For them, burnout would mean fall out and get out.
Now, there are five-day work weeks, scheduled breaks, long annual leave entitlements, paternity leave, and many kinds of occupational cushions to ease the strain. Guyana still labours with 28 days of sick leave annually; an entitlement much utilized.
And now, there is this business about burnout. Boggles the mind; surely necessary, but also dangerous for business.
To narrow matters down: the Guyanese worker is laid back, lacking in spirit, devoid of zest, and often robotic. The public service is overloaded with such freeloaders; the private sector not too distant. Create a spark under them, and the world is set on fire. Crisis!
While a long overdue and needed medical option, burnout could turn out to be a misused, double-edged sword.
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