Kristin, a unit manager in a large hospital, described what bothered her about her job:
“My frustration comes from, not the staff or Managers that I have, but the inequities that I feel we have in the organization. We talk about team, how important team is but for the front line 24/7 group the funding to enable to them to come together isn’t there.”
A key word is inequities. Injustice prevents people from engaging with their work. It arises from the gap between what should be happening and what is actually happening. The specific gap for Kristin is between a fuzzy organizational ideal for teamwork and an actual reluctance to invest in the practical activities that would support teamwork.
Our surveys of health care managers show a difference between people who are exhausted and those who are experiencing the full burnout syndrome of exhaustion, cynicism, and discouragement. For the exhausted, unmanageable workload is what separates them from other managers who are doing well or fully engaged. For those experiencing burnout, mismatches in values, control, and justice are the factors that distinguish them.
The demands of health care work can exhaust people, but it takes a more thorough mismatch on the meaningful dimensions of work to aggravate burnout.