Some time ago I posted an article on burnout and just recently I shared my view on the causes and effects of grumpy bosses. Until now I only vaguely realized that both were related with each other, but since I used the car – engine – driver comparison as a metaphor the relationship is getting pretty obvious. As I stated before job control (as opposed to ‘job demands’) or ‘autonomy’ is the bottom line when it comes to employee burnout. When people are supported by the right level of autonomy, context, framework, tools etc. in order to cope with the job demands then the job is stimulating rather than exhausting. If not:… well … quite the opposite. The research of Professor Barsade points out that autonomy can act as a buffer on stress – and actually decrease job burnout. That same research points out that a lack of respect accelerates burnout when the autonomy is low. Now, picture this: the grumpy manager that I introduced some weeks ago, with his powerful people-engine wants to control everything – so he shifts the gears into Neutral and he starts pushing the car himself. Every initiative of a project member to bring the project forward is scrutinized, reworked and criticized until it is completely according to the flavor of the boss. People stop using their brains as pro-active initiatives are discouraged by micromanagement. The engine is not ‘empowered’ because of fear of it getting out of control.
If the engine is not empowered: that is a lack of autonomy. If that boss is pushing the pedal to the metal – with the gear shifted in Neutral – it only makes a lot of noise and smoke: that is the lack of respect. So there you go: the car driver’s guide to employee burnout: – The powerful engine: skilled people – The grumpy driver: grumpy boss – The pedal to the metal: high job demands – The gear shifted in Neutral with the engine on: low autonomy (job control) – The damage to the engine: employee burnout By the way, if you type in ‘burnout’ on youtube, you get all kinds of movies that illustrate this comparison in terms of cars. Do I need to paint a picture?