Employee Burnout: Is It the Same for Men and Women?

Topic: Burnout
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (OCT 2010)
>Article: Gender Differences in Burnout: A meta-analysis
Authors: R.K. Purvanova; J.P. Muros
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor

Do both men and women experience burnout? Yes. Do men and women experience burnout differently? Yes. In a meta-analysis that includes the results of 183 studies, burnout appears to be an equal opportunity downer, but, sometimes, in different ways, for men and women. On the first burnout component, depersonalization, men are more likely to experience it than women (57% of men and 43% of women report feeling the need to shut-off and withdraw when stressed at work). On the second component of burnout, emotional exhaustion, women are slightly more likely to exhibit it (54% of women and 46% of men studied feel emotionally and physically depleted at work).


Why, then, do you hear the rumor that women experience burnout more? The problem is that depersonalization is often not recognized. Many of the measures of burnout tap only emotional exhaustion and therefore, identify burnout among women more. Men experiencing depersonalization may not be indicated as “burnt out”. Companies may not see the need to assist men with burnout, and the myth that burnout is a female experience is perpetuated. A lack of resources for helping both men and women cope with burnout results in its costly effects: decrease in performance, satisfaction, commitment, health and, ultimately, turnover. These outcomes can be avoided with the availability of resources for both male and female employees such as more respite time, flexible work scheduling, more support for child and elder care, and better healthcare alternatives to name a few.

What about burnout in occupations that are typically male or female dominated (i.e. male nurses)? No, these researchers found that, across all the studies, the burnout rate is the same for men and women across occupations. What about burnout between countries with differing labor policies, the EU’s labor policies being more socially progressive than the U.S.? Yes. Countries with more progressive labor policies were different in that the men and women differed less in the way that they experienced burnout.

Given the significant links between burnout and key organizational outcomes like employee performance, turnover and overall organizational achievement, assessing and addressing both components of burnout (depersonalization and emotional exhaustion) is essential. Providing both male and female employees with resources to stave off burnout is key.

Gender differences in burnout: A meta-analysis.
Detail Only Available  Purvanova, Radostina K.; Muros, John P.; Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol 77(2), Oct, 2010. pp. 168-185.