Burnout is a term that has been used to describe people when they feel exploited, exhausted and are no longer interested in making a positive contribution to the workforce. It is often brought about by high or increased job demands and a lack of job resources to cope with these demands. Recent research however has also identified that when a person begins to experience an increase in job demands or lack of resources they often react in one of two ways, they either demonstrate adaptive or maladaptive strategies.

Maladaptive strategies happen when increased stress occurs and impacts an employee’s ability to think, decision make and often results in increased work-related mistakes. At this time the person might demonstrate coping inflexibility whereby they will focus on only one coping strategy and not be able to change and select the best strategy for the situation. This can be very detrimental if the strategy they have chosen is avoidance or emotion focused coping – coping on the emotions attached to the situation, rather than the problem.

The other maladaptive behaviour is self-undermining, whereby a person engages in behaviours that undermine their performance such as poor communication, careless mistakes or engage in interpersonal conflicts. The more stress a person is under due to job expectations and lack of resources, the more they might find themselves undermining their own performance.

Adaptive behaviours mean that a person experiencing stress and burnout instead can recover and move forward in a positive way through strategies such as job crafting. Job crafting is where a person makes adjustments to their tasks, relationships and decision making strategies in order to make their work less stressful and more meaningful. When an employee is able to take the initiative and engage in optimising job demands, seek challenges and increase job resources they improve their job performance and job meaning, leading to less instances of burn out.