Today’s workplace is clearly asking for burnout, the biggest factor being the atmosphere of non-stop emergency, based on the idea that any relaxation will play straight into the hands of the competition.
So a goal is set, you reach it, and earn the promised reward. The next goal is then set higher in exchange for a higher reward. You start to make a Pavlovian connection between effort and reward, and then you can’t escape that ever-spiralling workload.
As your mental image of a burnout victim is likely to be male, it’s worth recalling one case of a female manager who suffered the same fate. Her job was to market a particular brand of leatherwear (mostly belts and handbags) aimed at mid-market women in their forties and fifties – which matched her own profile.
Matched it too well, in fact.
Because every retailer found her so convincing as the representative of this market-sector that they ate out of her hand. The firm realised she was irreplaceable and paid her incredible bonuses, if she would just keep travelling round the country selling to every store in town. It was literally the offer she couldn’t refuse. But first her family life, then her health began to suffer. And still she just could not let go. Eventually a close friend persuaded her to retire, but not until a lot of damage had been done.
This calls for a severe questioning of that apparently watertight proposition about the dangers of relaxation. I never heard how the firm coped with her loss. But I wouldn’t mind betting that their HR department has since been briefed on the dangers of burnout too.