Burned Out? It Might Be Time to Look at Your Goals (IO Psychology)

Topic(s): burnout, goals, stress

Topic: Burnout, Stress, Goals
Publication: Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Article: The 2×2 model of goal orientation and burnout: The role of approach-avoidance dimensions in predicting burnout
Authors: Naidoo, L. J., DeCriscio, A., Bily, H., Manipella, A., Ryan, M., & Youdim, J.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli

There have been times when we’ve all felt a little burned out from work. When we feel burned out the usual suspects are situational factors like the job, occupation, organizational characteristics, leadership, and individual differences. But there is one variable that has typically been ignored in the literature—our motivational dispositions, or in other words, our goals.

Burnout is typically defined as having three components: emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced personal efficacy. Dispositional preferences, or our goal orientation for certain kinds of goals may, be linked to burnout because burnout is often viewed as environmental or work demands getting in the way of achieving our personal goals.

Naidoo et al. suggested thinking of goal orientation as being broken down into a 2×2 table. On the one side is mastery-orientation, the people who think they can improve and often set goals that are challenging or developmental; and performance-orientation, the people who think ability is fixed so they set goals that are attainable and not as challenging. The other side of the table is approach versus avoidance, or striving toward a goal out of anticipating its positive outcomes, or out of avoiding negative outcomes associated with failing to attain it.

Naidoo et al. gathered student responses to questions regarding goal pursuit and burnout measurement. Using structural modeling, the authors found that avoidance goal orientations were positively related to the three aspects of burnout and approach goal orientations were negatively related.

In light of conservation of resources theory, these findings suggest that people with avoidant goal orientations are more sensitive to resource loss (not reaching goals) and less likely to seek help when they fail. Whereas those with approach goal orientations may be more resilient to burnout inducing conditions.

What does all this mean? The authors suggest that to help reduce burnout, organizations and leaders that help the goals of their employees become more mastery-approach oriented could help them become more resilient to stressful conditions when it isn’t realistic to change the situation. This is a prudent suggestion for any leader who can help define goals for their team members or who can help determine the cultural norms of goal setting.

Naidoo, L. J., DeCriscio, A., Bily, H., Manipella, A., Ryan, M., & Youdim, J. (2012). The 2 x 2 model of goal orientation and burnout: The role of approach-avoidance dimensions in predicting burnout. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(10), 2541-2563.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management

 

 

 

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