Anna-Maria Garden.

Burnout : the effect of Jungian type online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryAnna-Maria GardenBurnout : the effect of Jungian type → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


вАҐ ^^^




Anna-Maria Garden

WP 1588-84






Anna-Maria Garden
WP 1588-8A

- 1 -



-Introduction 2

-What is Burnout? 4

-Resolving the Definitional Confusion 6

-Analysis of the Effect of the Two Underlying Assumptions

(a) Burnout is Primarily Associated With "People Professions" 9

(b) Burnout is What You Observe It to Be 15
-Overall Conceptual Framework 19
-Methodology 21

(a) Tools of Analysis

(i) The Depletion Index 21

(ii)The Personality Indicator 25

(b) Research Design

(i) The Sample 30

(ii)Data Collection 32

-Empirical Results

Finding Depersonalization 34

The Nature of the Various Reactions to People 37

Interpretation of the Different Reactions to People 40

Role of Individual Type 43

Explanation of Reversion 52

Summary of Results 53

-Conclusion 55

-Bibliography 57


A. The Questionnaire 62

B. The MBTI and Jungian Theory 64

C. Construction of the Depletion Index 68

D. Variables used in Depersonalisatlon Factors 73

- 2 -


This paper is concerned with a phenomenon which has recently received
enormous attention from the public, the media, people professions and certain
sections of academia in the United States. A word, "burnout", which was
barely known at the beginning of the 70' s, at least in its association with
people at work, has become part of the common lexicon within a decade. To
some this is simply an indication of the seriousness and pervasiveness of a
real problem; to others such sudden popularity suggests it is merely the
latest media-created fashionable neurosis. The working assumption underlying
this paper, and my belief, is that burnout is a real and distressing problem
and is not simply an old ill with a new label. Whatever one chooses to
believe, it is clear that the popularity, if not faddishness, of the topic has
had a strong influence on the field, and whilst the term itself is commonly
known, it is variously and usually inaccurately understood.

Not all the blame however, can be attributed to the concept's popularity
for even within the academic or empirical arena, the research and writing has
neither been directed towards, nor has achieved, a clear grounded view of what
burnout is all about. For example, most of the research has focused on
correlating a specific, postulated measure of burnout with other variables,
[e.g. Pines et al., 1981; Berkeley Planning Associates, 1977; Gann, 1979.],
rather than on whether or not that particular measure of burnout really Is
referring to burnout and nothing else. The various measures and definitions
used in this way in the field are quite different from each other, although
each purports to relate to "the" burnout syndrome or "the" burnout process.

- 3 -

Another influence on the "state of the art " In the field is that, for
those who "believe in it", burnout is a "real world" problem and as such draws
the involvement of practitioners as well as academics. This has led to the
conflict between the need to do something about the problem immediately (to
create an inventory to measure burnout, for example), and the need to know
more exactly what it is we are "doing something about" (to make sure the
inventory really is measuring burnout, for example).

Thus both the popularity of the topic as well as the pragmatic immediacy
of the orientation have influenced the development of the field. In addition,
the very youth of the field means that the available literature is still small
and there has been very little empirical research. For all these reasons the
field remains one which is still beset with many unresolved definitional and
methodological issues, and there exists considerable uncertainty about the
characteristics, causes and consequences of burnout. Those who are considered
the "leaders of the field" have themselved been "critical of much that has
been said and done in the name of burnout" (Maslach,1982,p30). Perlman and
Hartman in a 1980 review article concluded "It cannot be overemphasised that
thus far burnout has been primarily, if not entirely, a descriptive term
yielding little insight into explaining its causes, prevention and cures"
(Perlman and Hartman, 1980, p. 302).

Perhaps the most serious issue, within this overall state of confusion,
is the fact that nobody actually knows what burnout is. This lack of a
precise understanding about the true nature of this phenomenon is
acknowledged. As Maslach has stated "to understand burnout, we need to know
first what it is. Herein lies the major source of confusion and controversy
about the concept" (Maslach, 1982, p. 30). Paine, the editor of a review book
on burnout, cited "identification of burnout to be one of the major goals for

- 4 -

the field to adopt In the future" (Paine, 1982, p. 19). "Until this confusion
over definitions is dispelled, little progress can be made in identifying
causes and cures". The present paper attempts to make some headway in
dispelling such confusion.


Burnout is both a metaphor and label, sign and symbol, but it is its
evocative quality which registers. Freudenberger, who first applied the term
to the occupational setting in the early 70' s, has described the way he hit
upon the term for the phenomenon he observed and himself experienced. "In
talking to some of these people... 1 began to use the term "Bum Out" and each
time I did, I got a profound reaction. Immediate identification."
(Freudenberger, 1980, p. xvii).

Whilst this evocative quality enables a reasonable "ball park"
understanding of what is being referred to, this same quality can create
considerable difficulty when attempting to create a definition or to
operationalize the concept. It is in the very nature of a metaphor to convey
different interpretations to different people.

As Maslach has pointed out in a review article on the definitions of
burnout "for some authors burnout is an internal 'fire' that consumes the
person, leaving them burnt out, while for other authors the fire is external
to the individual and the person is like a pot being heated up" (Maslach,
1982, p. 37). Many authors rely only on the evocative image created rather
than precisely "nailing down" what is being described. Some writers rely
solely on the general meaning conveyed by a dictionary. Others, like
Freudenberger, use a dictionary definition although he also puts forward his
own definition. He defines burnout as "To deplete oneself. To exhaust

- 5 -

one's physical and mental resources. To wear oneself out by excessively
striving to reach some unrealistic expectation imposed by one's self or by the
values of society" (Freudenberger, 1980, p. 17).

Some of the other "main" definitions in the field are that of Berkeley
Planning Associates (1977) who define burnout as "estrangement from clients
co-workers, job and agency," sounding very like job alienation. Pines et al.
(1981, p. 3) define It as "a state of mind which frequently afflicts
individuals who work with other people... and who pour in much more than they
get back from their clients, supervisors and colleagues", and also as a state
of "physical, emotional and mental exhaustion" (p. 15). Veninga and Spradley
include behavioural symptoms in their definition: "a debilitating
psychological condition brought about by unrelieved work stress which results

(1) depleted energy reserves.

(2) lowered resistance to Illness.

(3) increased dissatisfaction and pessimism.

(4) increased absenteeism and inefficiency."
(Veninga and Spradley, 1981, p. 6)

Chemiss, in one definition, states it is "a process in which a previously
committed professional disengages from his or her work in response to stress
and strain experienced in the job" (1980, p. 18).

The above definitions illustrate the variation which exists in terms of
breadth, the level of the phenomenon being referred to, reference to
behaviours or purely to a psychological state, whether It is a process or a
syndrome, etc. It is clear, also, that some definitions are making
fundamental assumptions about burnout intrinsic to their definition without
empirically testing those assumptions. Chemiss, for example, appears to
limit burnout to professionals, implying non-professionals cannot, by

- 6 -

definition, bum out. Similarly, he presumes burnout is caused by stress, and
that it is located within the work-sphere. One could not, according to this
definition, bum out from a relationship or "way of life" as Freudenberger

Some of these definitions illustrate more clearly than others the degree
to which they have been derived from the particular setting in which
observations have been made (e.g.. Pines, et al. and the Berkeley Planning
Associates). Since Chemiss, Maslach and the Berkeley Planning Associates
have focused primarily if not exclusively on human service workers as they
perform their jobs, it is not surprising that their definitions reflect that
setting. Freudenberger, as a practising psychoanalyst, observes his subjects
away from the work sphere and has not, therefore, restricted his definition
in the same way.

It should be noted that, while the definitions within the field are
varied there is more commonality in the descriptions . There the reader can
sense the "sameness" in the quality of the experience being described.
Indeed, without the description, it is often very difficult to get an idea of
what exactly is being referred to. From the definition alone of Berkeley
Planning Associates, for example, one would not necessarily infer that burnout
was the phenomenon in question.


The above brief overview of how burnout is presently defined has
illustrated some of the issues in formulating a clear precise view of what
this nebulous phenomenon is all about.

There have been a number of approaches suggested to resolve these basic
definitional issues. Maslach (1982, p. 30) appears to encourage the

- 7 -

acceptance of a single standard definition. Perlman and Hartman (1980, p.
292), who attribute the confusion to overly simple data analysis techniques,
encourage the use of more sophisticated statistical techniques, and also try
to resolve the definitional confusion by performing a content analysis on all
the existing definitions in order to derive an overall one for the field to
adopt. Others (e.g. Shlnn, 1982, p. 38) suggest the adoption of a rigorous
model to guide research, using an existing definition/measure.

The approach taken in this paper, directed towards the same goal of
bringing order out of the definitional confusion, is different from any of
those suggested above. My view of what is the ultimate cause of the
definitional problems is the existence in the field of pervasive underlying
and untested assumptions about what burnout is . Because these assumptions are
questionable and In need of validation, approaches based on the use of
existing definitions or measures, on more sophisticated statistical
techniques, or on content analysis of existing definitions will still be beset
with problems since they each presume the correctness of those underlying

Two of these underlying assumptions commonly held within the field are
focused on in this paper. These are:

(a) burnout is a phenomenon primarily if not exclusively associated
with "people professions."

(b) burnout is what you observe it to be.

It should be emphasized that each of the above is an assumption . They
have not been empirically tested yet almost all writing and research in the
field derives from them; and each of these assumptions Influences the
description and definition of what burnout i^. The first assumption has
arisen from an almost universal lack of attention to generallzablllty . The

- 8 -

second has arisen from confusion over levels of analysis and over levels of
the burnout phenomenon Itself. The issue here is primarily that of construct
validity .

The definition I have chosen to test those assumptions and issues with,
and to examine its validity as a generic definition, is that of Maslach. She
defines burnout as "a syndrome of: (a) emotional exhaustion, (b)
depersonalisation, and (c) lowered productivity" (Maslach, 1982, p. 3). These
three defining dimensions are the same as those used to measure burnout in the
Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach and Jackson, 1981) . The latter is now the
most widely used measure of burnout (Shinn, 1982, p. 64), and her definition
is widely used and quoted by other authors, (e.g. Gann, 1979) as the basis for
their own research and writing. Apart from its use and acceptance in its own
right, one major review article (Perlman and Hartman, 1980) proposes a
definition for the field to adopt which appears to derive primarily from
Maslach' s own. In the light of its obvious influence in the field it is a
definition which warrants examination.

The dimension of her definition which seems most entwined in these
assumptions is that of "depersonalisation". Thus it is this "second aspect
of the burnout syndrome" on which I concentrate to answer the immediate
research question: is depersonalisation an intrinsic and generic dimension of
burnout? The answer to this question should itself shed light on what burnout
really is, this being the overarching question which the research is directed
towards .

In what follows I shall first outline the effect which these two
assumptions have had on the understanding of what burnout is, focusing in
particular on Maslach' s definition. This will provide the context for the

- 9 -

subsequent discussion of the conceptual and methodological framework I use to
examine the assumptions empirically.

(a) Burnout Is primarily, If not exclusively, associated with people

professions, i.e. the "human services."
Maslach states that "at first burnout was considered a problem that was
found primarily (if not exclusively) within the helping professions" (1982, p.
33), and appears to criticize subsequent researchers who have "expanded" the
concept to other occupations. In fact, however, burnout, as it was applied to
the occupational sphere, was first associated with the fields of professional
athletics and the performing arts in the 1930's (Paine 1982, p. 12), and has
continued to be associated with them (see William Safire NYT, 23 May, 1982).
It has only been in the 1970' s that the concept has been "restricted" to the
"helping professions . "

The majority of work done in the field in the 70 's has limited Itself to
this occupational sphere, that of "people professions", or the "human
services." Most of this work has concentrated on health-care. At the same
time that most observation has been carried out in the human ser-vlces, there
has developed the notion that burnout itself is primarily to be found in this
sphere; that such jobs are more prone to burnout than others. Carroll and
White, for example, state "Burnout Is especially common and severe among
professionals who deliver direct care and assistance to emotionally
distressed, indigent clients in public institutions or agencies " (Carroll and
White, 1982, p. 46). Veninga and Spradley (1982, p. 13) call the helping
professions "high risk" occupations.

- 10 -

However there is, as yet, no empirical evidence or convincing logical
argument to support this frequent assertion. Only one study has attempted any
comparative occupational analysis and the results of this did not support the
assumption (Pines et al. 1981, p. 172 ). Are there logical a priori reasons
to expect the assumption to be true, then? This is difficult to ascertain for
the assertion that it is the case is not usually accompanied by a supporting
argument with which one might validate the logical deduction behind the
claim. The justifications which have been put forward are not convincing,
however, and are themselves fraught with numerous questionable assumptions.
For example, the notion that human service work is "particulary stressful"
(Veninga and Spradley, 1981, p. 223) and, as a result, more likely to induce
burnout, is conditioned on two further untested assumptions. First, the
assumption that burnout is a stress response is highly questionable and in
need of justification. Secondly, the implicit assumption that human service
work is more stressful than other occupations is a moot point. As Shinn
(1982, p. 72) states, "several authors have described the special stresses of
human service work ,... other workers like air traffic controllers and bomb
squad members, also experience high levels of stress."

Thus, just because burnout has primarily been found in the human
services does not prove that these occupations are more prone to burnout. All
It reflects so far is that that is where most people have looked for it.
Interestingly, if one looks at the work of those few authors outside the human
seirvices field, one finds that they too think "their" area is particularly
prone to burnout. Levinson, for example, states "many contemporary managerial
situations provide the perfect breeding ground for cases of burnout."
(Levinson, 1981, p. 77)

What are the implications of this assumption? The implications have

- n -

primarily to do with generalizability. For the present purposes, the
important point is the effect of this assumption on the conventional wisdom
about what burnout is. What is claimed to be "the burnout syndrome" or "the
burnout process" may have been fundamentally influenced by particular and
specific variables salient only to that observational setting. For example,
"working with people" has come to be seen as intrinsic to burnout because most
authors have only looked at those situations where the work requires "working
with people." But in addition to the association with "people" which has
arisen from concentration on this one occupational sphere, the fact that the
function in this sphere is to respond to people's needs, people's problems,
"emotional demands", and involves a "social interaction" with people has led
to burnout being defined or described as being intrinsically associated with
or caused by emotional demands (rather than, say, mental demands), and the
need to help or give (rather than, say, the need to create or to achieve).
Because burnout has been defined along these dimensions, it is then assumed
that in applying the concept of burnout to other arenas one still identifies
burnout by these same dimensions. However, Ginsburg (1974, p. 599) in
discussing the process of burnout in the "burned out executive" identifies
burnout in very different ways than "emotional demands", "working with people"
or the "social interaction" between two people. Instead, the precursors are
described as "the crawl or climb to the top has been... so tough,
tension-filled and debilitating, that once there, the base has been firmly
laid for a good case of being Burned Out. Also, when finally at the top, the
pressures to prove that one is the best man for the office; to put one's
individual stamp as quickly as possible on the organization; to be strong,
dynamic, decisive, innovative and right-all serve to produce additional
tensions which in time bring on the Burned Out syndrome." Indeed, the

- 12 -

description of the process of burnout in executives is so markedly different
one would have a very different conventional wisdom of what burnout is if the
majority of research had been concentrated in that sphere. Thus, the type of
"situation" i.e., human services, can be expected to have influenced the
understanding of what burnout itself is. To ignore the role of the
"situation" in influencing what one "sees" burnout to be, is to ignore the
elementary need to establish generalisabiltity. As a consequence, what it has
been assumed to be may be not transferable to other work settings, and may
also be incorrect as a picture of the true dimensions of burnout.

A related issue, arising from the predominance of research in this one
field, is that there is evidence to suggest that one type of individual is
over-represented in the human services. There is a considerable amount of
evidence to support the notion that different occupations attract different
types of people (Keen 1981, p. 6). This is so for the psychological types
described by the typology of Carl Jung (Jung 1921), as operationalised by the
Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). McCaulley, in her review article (1982,

p. 327) stated "It is known... that the humanistic, enthusiastic, and

Insightful NFs are significantly attracted to the humanities, counselling,

psychology and psychiatry (Barberousse, 1975; Conary, 1965; McCaulley, 1973,

1978). The sympathetic and friendly SF types tend to be attracted to

^ The means of mapping personality attributes is the Jungian typology which
is operationalised by the MBTI. Appendix B provides more detail on both.

2 An NF is an intuitive feeling type and an SF Is a sensing feeling type as
per the MBTI.

- 13 -

elementary school teaching (Cage and Austin, 1979; Carlyn, 1976; McCaulley,
1973) and to bedside nursing, general practice, and patient care at
professional and para-professional levels" (McCaulley, 1977, 1978). There
have been numerous tests of the intercorrelations between the MBTI dimensions
and other personality inventories. Of interest here, the feeling dimension of
the MBTI is associated with being "tender minded on the 16PF; in terms of
career it is associated with the social services, the ministry, teaching and
consulting" (Carskadon 1979b).

In other words, based on previous studies, the feeling dimension as
opposed to the thinking dimension is associated with those human service
workers studied in the burnout field. Although the role of personality
factors in burnout is a seriously neglected issue in the field, it is
acknowledged by some authors that individual "personality" factors will affect
the degree of burnout reaction, and coping response (Welch et al. , 1982,
Chemiss, 1980). The predominance of one psychological type of individual in
one's sample, therefore, may influence the manifestations and dimensions of
burnout seen and inferred as well as one's predisposition to bum out. Again,
this raises questions about the generalizability of results to other spheres,
when those notions have been derived from a setting with a concentration of
one 'type' of person.

Both Maslach's definition and the instrument used to measure bum out,
the Maslach Burnout Inventory, provide good examples of the issues involved.
It is clear that the observations and investigations which led to these
formulations of burnout were solely from the human services arena. The
Inclusion of depersonalization was based on a factor analysis performed on
questionnaire data administered to workers in the human services. The point
to note is that the items originally chosen for that factor analysis which

- 14 -

determined the dimensions of the definition were Items directly related to
human services work. These ultimately, then, prescribed and proscribed the
resultant definition of burnout. To the extent that those items (and the
preceding observations) are sltuationally-specific and not transferable
outside the human services, then so also must the resultant definition be.

Testing of the dimensionality of the MBI outside the human services has
not, however, been carried out. An interesting attempt to assess its
generalisability was conducted by Golemblewski (1983) in an R&D setting. This
study provides a good example of the effect of the untested Implicit
assumptions discussed earlier, on burnout research. Thus, whilst the wording
of the MBI questions was altered from referring to "clients" , to "work
colleagues", the assumption that the relevant dimensions by which to measure
burnout are still people-oriented is based on the questionable premise that it
Is Indeed people-related reactions which are salient to burnout in such work
settings as an R&D organisation. Moreover, this research did not provide a
test of the generalisability of the MBI dimensions since, by using the MBI, it
assumed the salience of these three dimensions in an R&D setting without
directly testing their relative Importance. A valid test of the MBI
dimensionality in other work settings would require a similar factor analysis
procedure of a range of items, to see if the same three factors emerged.

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryAnna-Maria GardenBurnout : the effect of Jungian type → online text (page 1 of 6)