Is your life shaped by a frequent practicing of  “workism?”

While the workism term blew up earlier this year thanks to Derek Thompson’s article Workism Is Making Americans Miserable, the idea of work defining one’s identity isn’t new—especially for executive leaders.

But even if workism has become your mantra of operation as a leader, you still may find yourself flirting with bouts of feeling uninspired, unmotivated or downright miserable.

You may chalk up that sense of “blah” as just temporary. But if those feelings become more frequent or pervasive, you may be experiencing signs of job burnout.

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

Burnout has become more common in the U.S. A recent study conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that one in five highly engaged employees is at risk of burnout.

Left unchecked, burnout can lead to both professional and personal unhappiness.

How does burnout happen, particularly if your identity is closely tied to your work?

The Mayo Clinic provides several possible causes:

  • Lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work.
  • Unclear job expectations. If you’re unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you’re likely to feel uncomfortable at work.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Perhaps you work with an office bully, you feel undermined by colleagues, or your boss micromanages your work. Any of these can contribute to job stress.
  • Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.
  • Lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed.

How do you determine if you’re on the verge or even the throes of burnout?

According to Psychology Today, if you answer yes to any of the questions below, you’re at risk for burnout.

  • Do you experience severe stress, fatigue, or problems sleeping due to work?
  • Are you dreading going into work every day?
  • Do you worry about work even when you’re at home in your free time?
  • Have you become cynical or distant with coworkers?
  • Do you feel ineffective—like you aren’t able to accomplish tasks that used to be easy for you?
  • Do you experience more physical problems, like frequent headaches?

“Acknowledging burnout is the first step to addressing the emotional and physical symptoms of burnout,” said Elizabeth Malson, president and VP of marketing at the Amslee Institute.

To help reverse burnout, regain balance and force some perspective, she recommends trying these three suggestions.

  1. Focus first on the physical by getting plenty of sleep, exercising and eating healthy.
  2. Improve your mental state by taking time each morning to be grateful – for your health, family, home, etc.
  3.  Instead of focusing on work 24/7, keep it to business hours, and retrain your mind to focus on relaxation and enjoyable activities each evening and weekend.

Malson acknowledges “resolving burnout is a process. It took time to get burnt out, and it will take time to recover.”

Even in the age of workism, it is possible to overcome burnout while maintaining your identity. Why not start your fight today! And if you are feeling a coach would be helpful, I can be reached at or go to my website at