Decision Making Can Lead to Employee Burnout

Topic(s): burnout
Publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Article: Making Choices Impairs Subsequent Self-Control: A Limited-Resource Account of Decision Making, Self-Regulation, and Active Initiative
Authors: K.D. Vohs, R.F. Baumeister, B.J. Schmeichel, J.M. Twenge, N.M. Nelson, D.M. Tice
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

Does decision-making impair subsequent self-discipline? In other words, after you decide if you want to read this review or not, will you no longer be able to resist the glazed donut in the office kitchen? Though some previous research has shown that making decisions can be exhausting, little research had explained why.

In the current study, the investigators found that the more choices people made, the less self-discipline they had. Specifically, as the number of decisions increased, the ability to pursue goal-directed action, perform tasks such as math problems, and persevere decreased. In explaining the results, the investigators said that, similar to physical energy, individuals have a limited amount of mental energy. As mental energy gets depleted by decision-making, there is less energy to perform other mental tasks such as self-discipline.

These results suggest that in order to prevent burnout, the limits of mental energy and capacity should be recognized. Just as a coach does not want to over train an athlete, a boss should not over train an employee.


Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., Schmeichel, B. J., Twenge, J. M., Nelson, N. M., & Tice, D. M. (2008). Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: A limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(5), 883-898.

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