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All in all, then, there are a number of reasons to question whether or
in what way the human services setting has Influenced the understanding of
what burnout is, whether Maslach's definition and measurement index are
generalizable and if they are not what does that imply about their accuracy
even for the human services.

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b) Burnout Is what you observe It to be.

This assumption is usually left implicit rather than being made
explicit. It refers to the tendency to eqtiate what burnout "is" either with
what it is seen or felt to be in overt behaviour, or with what can be directly
inferred from such behaviour. To illustrate, even though Maslach has stated
(1982, p. 32) that it is generally acknowledged that burnout is an internal
psychological experience, behaviours and outcomes are included in various
definitions, including Maslach' s own, (i.e. lowered productivity). Even an
affective dimension like depersonalization is primarily interpreted in terms
of its behavioural manifestations. On a priori grounds, burnout may not be
what it is observed to be for the simple reason that the "actual thing" may
not itself be observable. The issue at stake is one of being clear about what
level of reality or level of sensation one is assuming burnout to be and, more
simply, recognizing that one is assuming a particular level. Even as an
intra-psychic process, dealing solely in terms of cognitive or affective
states, one also needs to distinguish between levels of reality. For example,
whilst it is relatively easy to see that physiological changes such as
lingering colds, gastrointestinal disturbances, may be "symptoms " of burnout,
it is normally assumed that an affective or cognitive change l£ burnout,
rather than that they might themselves be "symptoms" of burnout. In Maslach 's
definition, it is easy to question "lowered productivity" as a definitional
component purely on the grounds that it is a behavioural outcome and not
itself an "internal psychological experience". However, what of the other two
dimensions: "emotional exhaustion" and "depersonalization". Might these not
also be outcomes or symptoms of burnout?

If we look at other definitions, for example, is burnout intrinsically
"estrangement from clients, etc." (Berkeley Planning Associates) or

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Intrinsically "disengagement" from work (Chemlss) or are these too, like
depersonalization and exhaustion, merely outcomes of a deeper, underlying
process or condition? Can one claim that the essence of burnout Is at this
level of reality? We need to be sure not only of what burnout Is, but where
it is. One of the few authors to be mindful of this issue is Meyer (1979)
whose doctoral dissertation takes a phenomenological approach in trying to
understand the "what" and "where" of burnout. What emerges from his research
is a view of burnout as a "two-stage process". It was during the
data-collection process that he first noticed the distinction between burnout
as something beginning "inside" but manifested as a "felt experience of
burnout" (p. 63). What is common to all his interviewees is that their
explanations of what burnout means to them are "only descriptive observable
symptoms of burnout. These responses do not fully address the meaning of the
concept, its causes, or the developmental course of the phenomenon."

Thus most professionals, when viewing burnout, are only aware of their
own reactions: "feeling overwhelmed", "anxious" or "fatigued" (p. 101).
However, what is also clear is a stage preceding these reactions. This first
stage, termed an "incubation period", is unconscious. Meyer asserts that it
consists of a re-socialization process or an interaction between the
individual's personality and the organizaton. The correctness or otherwise of
the substantive nature of this incubation period does not matter here so much
as the very existence of some such process. (The substantive nature Meyer
attributes to it may have been influenced by the characteristics of his own
sample, who were all human service workers, and his apparent assumption that
burnout is a job-focused phenomenon.) This unconscious incubation period,
involving a form of inner psychic conflict, then results in a "reaction", the

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second stage of the burnout process. This is an awareness stage, "when the
worker is consciously aware that "something is going on." This something is
manifested by the symptoms referred to by the individuals throughout this
study as burnout" (p. 101).

The overwhelming majority of authors in the field have defined and
described burnout solely in terms of Meyer's "reaction stage", as the previous
section on definitions in the field illustrates. His research suggests the
need to examine further whether this stage is indeed preceded by an
unconscious stage or, even further, whether burnout is only that preceding
stage. In the present study this means that any affective sensation, such as
depersonalisation, cannot a priori be taken as being a dimension of burnout
without examining if there is anything going on underneath or preceding that

Leaving aside the question of whether burnout is partly or even wholly
something underlying the affective, cognitive and physiological reactions,
there remains another major source of confusion in the literature arising from
the lack of distinction being made between the level of measurement and the
level of the phenomenon .

Consider the methodology used to establish depersonalization as a
"definitional" component of burnout. Depersonalization emerged as one of
three factors with an eigen value greater than one from a factor analysis
performed on 47 items. These three factors were then taken to be the
dimensions with which to measure burnout with the MBI and also the defining
dimensions of the burnout syndome. A number of points need to be made about
this methodology.

The form of factor analysis used by Maslach is an exploratory device,
not something which can be taken to provide a direct reflection of reality.

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It is not in the power of factor analysis to do so. At best, it is a means of
ordering items into statistically-related categories. These categories are
not necessarily in the same order or level of reality as the phenomenon
Itself; they may simply be a way of ordering at the symptom level. The
factors which emerged are constrained to the nature or level of the phenomenon
addressed by the original questions. Whether this really is the level at
which burnout "is", is an empirical question, and one not solvable solely by a
methodology of factor analysis. This is illustrated further by considering
the use of a cut-off point of an eigen value greater than one. One wonders
what the scree test (Gorush 1974), an alternative criterion, would have
indicated; that there should have been only two factors and, hence, there
would only be two "key" dimensions of burnout not three? The point is that
either criterion is arbitrary and that what emerges from using either cannot
be treated as proven or factual.

Thus, both the arbitrary nature of the data analysis technique and the
original inclusion of items, precludes assuming the definitiveness of what
emerges. In addition, care must be taken in claiming support for what burnout
is by support for a measurement index of burnout, such as the MBI. For
example, the use of dimensions of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and
lowered productivity may be able (statistically) to indicate who is more or
less burnt out. This does not mean those same dimensions necessarily
constitute the phenomenon itself.

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The above discussion has indicated the way in which the two assumptions
have influenced the understanding of what burnout is, particularly with
reference to Maslach's definition. To the extent that they are invalid, then
the derived understanding of burnout may also be. On logical a priori grounds
I have tried to establish that there are sound reasons for suspecting their
validity, and in the process of doing so, raised a number of questions which
need to be answered. In the light of the preceding arguments, it would seem
inappropriate to mount a study of burnout using any of the existing measures
or definitions of burnout which are based on the above questionable premises.

What I have chosen to do, instead, is begin with a heuristic tool
through which burnout can be gauged . There is no presumption that I know, at
the outset, what burnout itself really is . The point is, instead, to use this
indicator of burnout as an exploratory tool to find out more about what It
really is. Since for reasons elaborated in the next section, this tool
enables identification of burnout in any sample, it is possible to use it to
assess whether other postulated manifestations or symptoms of burnout are
present in my own sample, thus testing the generalisability of those
postulated dimensions or symptoms. In particular, it will enable testing of
Maslach's claim that depersonalisation is a defining dimension of burnout. The
concept of depersonalisation is, in turn, being used as another heuristic
device with which to examine the assumptions common to the whole burnout

The means by which I test the generalisability of depersonalisation is
the Psychological Type Theory of C. G. Jung, and the instrument which

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operationalises that theory, the Myers Brlggs Type Indicator. With this
Indicator, a sample of respondents who are measured on burnout can be divided
into different Jungian types to see if depersonalisation is equally relevant
across types. In order to do this it was decided to choose a sample which
would differ from the human services both in terms of the 'situation', and the
predominant Jungian type. The sample chosen, mid-career MBA's, were clearly
not working in a human services or "helping" environment; they were not
concerned with helping people in need, nor was there any social interaction
with "recipients". Further, as business school students they were expected to
be, and proved to be, predominantly 'thinking' types rather than 'feeling'
types, in terms of the MBTI (80% of the sample were 'thinking' types; roughly
the same as in the MBA population as a whole). Thus the difference in
'situation' and the different concentration of psychological types enables
examination of issues of generalisability.

This in turn enables examination of the assumption concerning the level
at which the burnout phenomenon is supposed to be. A dimension or
manifestation of burnout which pertains to all individuals irrespective of
their type will say something very different about the phenomenon than a
manifestation which varies depending on the type of individual experiencing
burnout, for the latter is more likely to be a response whose nature is
mediated by qualities within the individual, rather than being intrinsic to
burnout. The aim of this part of the research is key. It is to edge more
closely to the common essence of burnout by examining whether supposedly
intrinsic dimensions are simply symptoms applying to some individuals and not
others .

Overall, then, this research takes an exploratory approach to uncovering
what burnout really is. The necessary limitations in scope of the present

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paper has meant that it has only been possible, thus far, to concentrate on
what burnout can not be stated to be rather than what it can be stated to be.
In view of the need to go back to basics and begin again, this can be seen as
a necessary first step.


(a) Tools of Analysis
(i)The Depletion Index.

The heuristic tool mentioned above, which will be used to gauge burnout,
is an index of the most generally agreed element of burnout, i.e. the
sensation of depletion of energy, chronic exhaustion or fatigue. It does not
matter at this stage whether we consider this energy depletion to be an
intrinsic core of burnout, a means of measuring it or a symptom of something
deeper. The point is that this element can be used as a key indicator of
burnout and thereby enables us to test for a number of supposed other elements
of burnout. The reasons why this depletion of energy can serve this function

(a) the dimension of burnout for which there is most definitional
agreement is this energy depletion. (1). Irrespective of the adequacy
of these definitions as "definitions", it is still important that most
refer to the exhaustion/depletion as a key component (see Khalsa (1978),
Collins (1977), Freudenberger (1980), Pines et al. (1981), Mitchell

1 This is also stated by Maslach (1982, p. 32) in her overview of definitions.

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(b) Aside from definitions, I know of no author who has described
burnout without mention of this feature of depletion or exhaustion,
which may be termed "inability to mobilise" oneself as per Potter
(1979), or something similar. Maslach (1982, p. 32) states that the
exhaustion is also described as wearing out, loss of energy, depletion,
debilitation and fatigue. Although sometimes this exhaustion is a
physical one, more often a psychological or emotional exhaustion is
described as central to burnout.

(c) Most important, authors outside the human services field include
energy depletion as a key dimension in their discussion. (Collins
(1977), Mitchell (1977), Freudenberger (1974, 1980), Veninga and
Spradley (1981).

(d) It is my experience that the key term which will identify to people
the state of burnout is to Indicate the depletion/exhaustion.

(e) Other "key" characteristics of burnout are derived directly from the
notion of energy depletion. In this I would Include the common notion
of it being a "struggle to get through the day".

(f ) It is also usually cited as the first or best indication.
Freudenberger states "one of the surest ways you can tell if you're
burning out is to look at your energy level. If it is noticeably lower
than it used to be something is wrong." (Freudenberger, 1980, p. 43).
Veninga and Spradley (1981) also cite "depleted energy reserves" as one
of the first consequences of burnout.

In sum, to describe someone as "burnt out" is to describe that person
as severely exhausted with no energy to face the day irrespective of any other

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additional characteristic or attribute which may also be included. In the
delightful words of the Tubesings (1982, p. 156) burnout is a "personal energy
crisis". Indeed this notion of burnout underpins their whole approach,
leading them to consider "energy conservation or replenishment" and "personal
energy spending patterns" as ways to understand the phenomenon.

At the experiential level, then, what appears to be the most crucial
element, irrespective of situation or type of person, is this personal energy
crisis. My belief, and working assumption, is that this is burnout's key
trademark which, if not present, means we do not have a case of burnout. It
is a necessary condition to identify someone as burned out (or burning out)
and it may turn out to be a sufficient condition. This is not to assume that
it is a defining element; it may or may not be. (Note that in Maslach's
schema, depersonalisation follows from what is termed "emotional exhaustion".
Thus even within her schema only, an index of energy depletion or exhaustion
would represent a necessary condition. )

Let us look a little closer at the notion of energy depletion, however,
for it is of a particular nature and it is chronic, and unless the exhaustion
being referred to is chronic then, again, we are not looking at burnout but
ordinary fatigue or temporary "acute" fatigue.

Potter (1979, p. 9) describes someone who is burnt out as follows, "the
person cannot muster enough energy to participate in life... The vital driving
force has become a whimper ••• The cycle rarely stops by Itself." Freudenberger
(1980, p. 13 and p. 45) describes burnout as a "depletion of the individual's
resources, an attrition of his vitality, energy and ability to function",
"that exhaustion seems to follow you and affect everything you touch. You go
to sleep with it, you wake up with it." Veninga and Spradley (1981, p7)
relate "when people talk about burning out they usually report feelings of

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exhaustion, weariness, loss of enthusiasm. They feel tired when they go to
bed and also when they wake up". One final Illustration: Welch et al. (1982,
p. 6) state "one of the first symptoms of burnout Is fatigue, a general
all-round tiredness which carries over from work to home." This burnout-type
of energy depletion is, then, chronic and all-encompassing.

What we have described above is not an ordinary type of physical fatigue
which might arise from, say, too little sleep or too much physical activity.
On the contrary many authors (e.g., Freudenberger (1980), Welch et al. (1982)
cite vigorous physical activity as a key relief for the distress of burnout in
order to physically exhaust the person. Nor can this depletion of energy be
thought of as simply depression and the fact that a separate and distinct
Depletion factor as well as a Depression factor emerged from the data supports
this. (Refer to Appendix C. Note that the key component of the Depression
factor is the idea of imprisonment, and helplessness, themes which are not
contained in, or allied with, the themes implicit in the Depletion factor.)
Furthermore, remedies which might normally be used to cope with ordinary
fatigue, such as sleep, rest or a vacation do not work. (Welch et al, 1982,
p. 9). What is sometimes deemed necessary to "cure" burnout is a "life change,
an altered direction." (Tubeslng et al. 1980, p. 156).

Why should a "depletion of energy" or "chronic exhaustion" usually
require the fundamental re-structuring of attitudes or life-patterns so often
advocated? Clearly we are dealing with something more than what is usually
understood as "fatigue". Not only is there a depletion of energy, but this
persists and, moreover, persists in spite of attempts to re-charge the
batteries through rest. In other words, the peculiar type of depletion of
energy associated with burnout is peculiar not just because it is chronic but
because of the seeming difficulty in renewing one's energy. Why does rest not

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relieve the fatigue? It is necessary to emphasise the non-renewal aspect of
the depletion of energy for it is this which makes the depletion chronic and
is the main way of distinguishing it from other phenomena. (In this regard it
is interesting to note one recent doctoral dissertation (Metz 1981) was based
on the notion that burnout and renewal are two ends of a continuum and her
measure (self-report) of degree of burnout /renewal was this continuum).

To operationalise this notion of depletion, a Depletion Index was
constructed. This reflected the themes of exhaustion and non-renewal of
energy and can, therefore, be taken as an index of the peculiar chronic
fatigue of burnout. The items contained in the Depletion index were "degree
of exhaustion experienced", "degree to which rest or vacation relieved any
tiredness", "severe energy fluctuations", and "degree of exhaustion upon
waking". The index provided a raw score between 4 and 20, which was rescaled
to a range of 1 to 5. The mean for the sample was 2.64, and the standard
deviation .965. Construction of the index is discussed more fully in Appendix
C. This Depletion Index was then applied in the data analysis which will be
discussed in subsequent sections,
ii) Personality Indicator.

The MBTI, and the Jungian theory of Psychological Types from which it
was derived, is a means of describing an individual and of distinguishing
between individuals. As an operationalisation of that theory, the MBTI was
developed in the 1940 's through the 1960 's by Isabel Myers and has been
continuously refined since then. A vast literature is associated with it, and
a data base of 75,000 subjects was built up from 1970-1976. The MBTI is a
self-report questionnaire consisting of 166 forced-choice questions. Results
are reported in terms of preference scores for one of each of the following
pairs; either extraversion or introversion; either intuition or sensing;

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either thinking or feeling; and either judging or perceiving (refer to
Appendix B for a description of these functions and attitudes) .

The strength of the preference is shown by the numeric score between 1
and 67 corresponding to that Item-pair, the stronger the preference the higher
the score. Thus, one may be scored as, say, an Introvert, or I (the "letter"
part of the score) with a score of 59 (Indicating a strong preference for
Introversion relative to extraverslon) . Note that Intuition Is referred to by
the letter N, to distinguish It from Introversion.

In general, the MBTI has adequate reliability and validity, and the type
theory has adequate phenomenologlcal evidence, to support the use of the
instrument as both a means of description and a means of distinguishing
between individuals. (These issues are discussed more fully in Appendix B).

In contrast to assessment of a single trait (e.g., "authoritarianism" or
"flexibility") which provide only a limited understanding of the psyche, the
MBTI provides a much richer and broader profile of the whole psyche by mapping
a complex and dynamic interwoven set of qualities. Further, whilst other
standard personality test inventories such as the MMPI or CPI provide
information on more than one trait, configural analysis of profiles has no
theoretical base and is still largely an individual subjective art. The MBTI,
however, is based on a theoretically strong conceptual framework; that
provided by Carl Jung whose theory was itself derived from 20 years of
clinical experience. It has been described by authors applying the theory to
organizations, as "the most comprehensive and fruitful description and system
of personality types that we know of" and as "a landmark in the history of
man's attempt to understand himself" (Mitroff and Mason, 1980, p. 6).
Phenomenologlcal evidence for the existence of types as postulated by Jung has
been provided by a number of authors (Gorlow et al. (1966); Ball (1968);
Stevenson (1939); Bradway (1966); Rlchek (1968).

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It is important In a field such as this to gauge psychic (or
personality) factors which are pre-dispositional and not those which may be
merely a reflection of, or a product of, the burnout experience. Also, in
view of the sensitivity apparent in the literature to attributing burnout to
be the "fault" of the individual, or something associated with "bad people",
it was desirable to have a non-evaluative indicator. This sensitivity seems
to have precluded serious study of the role of individual factors, or what the
individual brings to the burnout experience, and the presumption has been that
situational factors will be the paramount, if not the sole, cause. In spite
of claims that "research" suggests that the "situation" is more important than
the "person" (Maslach 1982, p. 10), research of this issue has been negligible
and inconclusive.

The MBTI categories are both non-evaluative and map pre-dispositions.
To deal with the former, the MBTI and the Jungian type theory are seductive in
their emphasis on valuing each type or quality, rather than either implicitly
or explicitly attaching negative and positive connotations to compare the
personality dimensions discussed. "Each person is classed in positive terms,
by what he likes, not what he lacks. The theory attaches no prior value
judgement to one preference as compared with another but considers each one
valuable and at times indispensable in its own field" (Myers 1962, p. 3). The
only study I am aware of concentrating on the role of personality factors in
burnout (Gann 1979) used Loevinger's ego-development scale, which has
implicitly and explicitly an evaluative quality to it (and could also be
criticised for being ethnocentric). The highest ego levels have the implicit
connotation of being "better" and are usually interpreted explicitly as being
better and /or a sign of "mature development". In Jung's typology, no type, no
function, and no attitude is either explicitly or implicitly "better" than any

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other. There is no notion that people "should" be a particular quality, only
(perhaps) that they "should" be their own quality, whatever that may be.

The other feature of the MBTI is, to me, the most important. This is
that it maps pre-dispositional attributes and not those which would be the
outcome of the burnout process. Both attitudes and functions are considered

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