From the Editor: When ‘work bliss’ can lead to burnout

Don't let a job you love turn into one you hate.

By MARIA D. JAMES — What happens when passion leads to burnout? That’s the question Jennifer Moss attempted to answer in her July 1 online article for the Harvard Business Review. Moss, a workplace expert and award-winning author of the book Unlocking Happiness at Work, challenges the advice that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” calling the tug between loving your work and falling victim to burnout a complicated love affair. 

“One minute it’s thrilling, passionate, engaging. The next, it’s exhausting and overwhelming, and I feel like I need a break,” said Moss. 

More and more people are recognizing the impact of burnout. With recognition of the condition comes the question of how do you find balance before burnout occurs?

This past April, I celebrated 10 years of living in the D.C. area. For five of those years, I’ve lived in Hyattsville. Like many college students, I left my home (in North Carolina) to come to the “big city.” In my dreams, a professional life meant having an office in a highrise building, and wearing dress heels and a suit everyday. And in 2009, that dream came true! I was hired for a 6-month internship with one of the largest global communications firm in the world. During that internship, I found a career I loved. Fast-forward to my life 10 years later, and I wished someone had told me that having a career can be both exhilarating and mentally exhausting. Perhaps you’ve had this experience, too. 

In a recent Gallup survey of 7,500 full-time employees, 23 percent report feeling burned out at work very often or always, while 63 percent said they experience it sometimes.

Recently, the World Health Organization announced its decision to include burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, and described it as characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. On The Mayo Clinic’s list of burnout risks, two out of six are related to this mindset: “You identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life” and/or “You work in a helping profession.”

In the May issue of Hyattsville Life & Times (HL&T), Krissi Humbard, our former digital editor, announced her decision to step down from her position. She wrote about the challenges of having love and passion for the Hyattsville community and journalism, but how her part-time job with the paper required so much more than that. Our work for the HL&T is never-ending. Our staff is made up of dedicated volunteers, and the nature of our work means we often straddle the line between love and burnout. 

To help manage this, in May we restructured our editorial staff and implemented a few changes, including welcoming a new associate editor, Sophie Gorman Oriani. Oriani is a Montessori teacher at St. Jerome Academy and is active with the Hyatt Park Community Garden. We recently merged our print and online staff, and each editor will manage a beat. In her new role, Oriani will serve as editor for our City News beat. (Note: We are actively seeking volunteer writers who are able to commit to one article per month to work on a beat. If you are interested in writing for the newspaper you can send an email to managingeditor@hyattsvillelife.com.) 

I believe passion and work can be balanced when we decide to establish and respect each other’s boundaries, and provide grace when we ask for a break.  As Moss says, “When it feels like your passion for work — or that of your employees — has become all-consuming, it might be time to take — or to offer — a break.”

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