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How Organizations Respond to Employee Burnout?

Simply put, if valued technology employees are subjected to an overly demanding work ambience in which the negatives overpower the positives for a prolonged period of time, the company risks losing those workers. And these are often the very employees the organization does not want to lose. Worker perceptions regarding the cause of exhaustion can compound the problem.

When an exhausted IT employee perceives the exhaustion to be caused by an unreasonable workload (which appeared to be a common occurrence in this sample of technology professionals), the worker is likely to feel that changes to the work environment need to be made by those in control. If the worker believes that such changes are unlikely, he or she will look for a better environment in which to work (Cherniss 1993). In today’s market of high demand for IT professionals, job alternatives outside the organization can be plentiful.

When a valued technology employee is experiencing exhaustion, communication is crucial; the manager must realize it is happening and work with the employee to effectively address the cause (Golembiewski et al. 1987). Whereas interventions that train employees in strategies for coping with stress (e. g. , training in relaxation, time management, and assertiveness) have been shown to be effective in some situations (Higgins 1986), chronic sources of pressure are likely to be resistant to reduction through individual coping efforts.

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Furthermore, workplace factors (such as perceived fairness of rewards) not only contribute to work exhaustion, but also may also directly affect turnover intention. Therefore, managers may need to be generally attentive to the workplace factors commonly associated with work exhaustion (i. e. , strive to reduce the occurrence of work overload and role ambiguity and conflict, and increase worker autonomy and perceived fairness of rewards). What specific actions can IT managers take to minimize the occurrence of work exhaustion?

First, managers need to be aware of the workloads and sentiments of individual workers, particularly those highly valued by the organization. Direct face-to-face interaction with individual employees, either on a scheduled basis or spontaneously, is likely to be the most effective means for doing this (Moore 1999). Second, managers need to make a conscious effort to provide acknowledgment and show appreciation to technology professionals who are doing a good job.

The evolution of the work exhaustion construct implies that such positives help to outweigh the negatives in a work situation. And, as always, it is important to distribute rewards fairly to employees as an unfair allocation of rewards could simply add to the negatives (Moore 1999). Staying on top of individual workloads and contributions should enable the manager to distribute rewards in a manner that valued IT professionals will perceive as fair. Finally, what should a manager do to help a technology professional who is experiencing exhaustion?

The manager can play a key role in helping the employee identify the cause of exhaustion. Experience in managing the workloads of others, insights gained from fellow managers regarding workload expectations, and the manager’s knowledge of the worker’s strengths and weaknesses and general tendencies can help in pinpointing the cause. Once the manager and employee believe they have identified the cause of exhaustion, the manager can take the lead in developing a plan of action to constructively target the cause.

The plan might involve improving processes and practices, clarifying or adjusting expectations and target dates, adding resources, or acquiring needed training for the employee (Moore 1999). Conclusion All of these recommendations add to the workload of IT managers. However, Leatz and Stolar (1993) insist that this type of management activity, in conjunction with hiring more workers where needed, is probably the most important means of avoiding employee burnout.

Therefore, organizations that are serious about combating work exhaustion and retaining technology workers may need to modify the workloads of their managers to allow time for these activities. Ideally, a manager would perform this individual-level activity with all subordinates; however, in organizational situations where that are not feasible, managers are encouraged to at least maintain a keen awareness of the workloads and sentiments of the most highly valued technology personnel.

Bottom line, organizations need to encourage, enable, and empower IT managers to prevent key technology professionals from burning out and leaving the company (Vakola, 2005).

References Baroudi, J. J. (1985). “The Impact of Role Variables on IS Personnel Work Attitudes and Intentions,” MIS Quarterly (9:4), pp. 341-356. Bartol, K. , and Martin, D. (1982). “Managing Information Systems Personnel: A Review of the Literature and Managerial Implications,” MIS Quarterly(6), pp. 49-70. Beckers, J. Schmidt, H (2001) The structure of computer anxiety: a six-factor model. Computers in Human Behavior 17, pp. 35-49

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