People often stay in jobs that they dislike, especially when the economy is bad. Or they live in a region with poor employment. But another reason they stay in bad jobs is that they lack the energy to leave. So, they stay. They still want to escape. They call in sick as often as they can. When they are at work, they avoid demanding situations. And when they must actually deal with work, they contribute as little of their energy, creativity, and enthusiasm as possible. Cynicism is the psychological state that goes with this approach to work. It does not solve any problems. In many ways it makes things worse, because it diminishes a person’s capacity for improving things at work. It can cause conflict with co-workers who notice the reduced effort. Cynicism is a response to exhaustion, but it is not a constructive response for the individual or the organization.
So, what exactly is cynicism? Cynicism, the second aspect of burnout, is a process of gaining psychological distance from work. It conveys an attitude of indifference, or even hostility, toward work. When experiencing cynicism, people dislike their work, the place where they work, and the people with whom they work. They just want to get away. When they are unable to get away physically, they withdraw their emotions, their attention, and their creativity.
When people first studies job burnout, they thought cynicism only concerned relationships with people. That is, when nurses or teachers became overly exhausted, they withdraw their feelings and focus from their patients or students. Time has shown that this very powerful process occurs with people who work with ideas or creativity. It’s not simply a something for client relationships; cynicism is about withdrawing from work
For example, Susie, a freelance writer, has evolved from believing that she was perfectly suited to a writing career, any writing career, to resenting the endless stream of dull assignments with unreasonable deadlines. Whenever she sat at her keyboard with a writing project open she could feel her energy drain away. It wasn’t just writer’s block Susie just didn’t care enough to put what energy she had into writing. She was not sure it would be right to do so. This was her life and her creative energy.