Workplace discomfort and burnout

Does the SOP say to fill in an internal failure report form or to call an ambulance?

Here is a study from Spain investigating the causes of stress in academic workplaces.  These authors found that burnout of staff is caused mainly by structural and functional elements of the organisation.  The solution is case-specific interventions rather than standardisation.  No surprise to systems thinkers.  Unimaginable by command and control employees. 

Read which of the three types of burnout accreditation is working you towards.

Accreditation is not accounted for in this paper but those than know can fit it into this picture!

Causes of discomfort in the academic workplace and their associations with the different burnout types: a mixed-methodology study



Burnout is the result of prolonged workplace exposure to chronic stress factors and may present itself in one of the following subtypes: “frenetic”, “under-challenged” and “worn-out”. The aims of the present study were to identify the causes of workplace discomfort that affect employees in large organizations and to determine the predictive power of these causes with regard to the burnout subtypes.


We employed a qualitative and quantitative analysis (QQA), using a cross-sectional design with an online survey administered to a randomly selected sample of University workers (n = 409). To determine the causes of discomfort, we raised the following open question: “What aspects of your work generate discomfort for you?”. The responses were subjected to content analysis and categorized by three independent referees. The concordance between the responses was estimated with the kappa coefficient (k). Subtype classification was assessed according to the “Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire” (BCSQ-36). The degree of association between the motives for the complaint and the burnout profiles was evaluated using adjusted odds ratio (OR), which was based on multivariate logistic regression models.


The causes of discomfort included: physical environment (setting aspects, material conditions, journey/access), organization (schedules, structure, functions, interpersonal relations) and individual conditions (workload, powerlessness, rewards, negligence). The concordance index between the referees was k = 0.80. Employees who were upset with the hierarchical structure were more likely to be classified as frenetic (OR = 4.32; 95% CI = 1.43-13.06; p = 0.010); those who complained of routine duties were more likely to be classified as under-challenged (OR = 5.33; 95% CI = 1.84-15.40; p = 0.002); those whose discomfort was caused by structure control systems were more likely to be classified as worn-out (OR = 6.13; 95% CI = 1.57-23.91; p = 0.009).


The causes of discomfort among the different burnout subtypes are primarily attributable to the organization itself, in response to the structure and functions. The associations observed between the different subtypes and motives for complaint are consistent with the clinical profile-based syndrome definition, which suggests that interventions should be case-specific.


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