OF OCCUPATIONAL BEHAVIOUR. Vol. 2.99-113 (1981) The
measurement of experienced burnout CHRISTINA MASLACH, University of California, Berkeley
and SUSAN E. JACKSON, University of California, Berkeley
A scale designed to assess various aspects of the burnout syndrome
was administered to a wide range of human services professionals.
Three subscales emerged from the data analysis: emotional exhaustion,
depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. Various psychometric
analyses showed that the scale has both high reliability and validity
as a measure of burnout.
The professional staff in human service institutions are often required
to spend considerable time in intense involvement with other people.
Frequently, the staff-client interaction is centred around the client's
current problems (psychological, social, and/or physical) and is
therefore charged with feelings of anger, embarrassment, fear or
despair. Solutions for these problems are not always obvious and
easily obtained, thus adding ambiguity and frustration to the situation.
For the helping professional who works continuously with people
under such circumstances, the chronic stress can be emotionally
draining and poses the risk of 'burnout'.
Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion and cynicism
frequently among individuals who do 'people-work' of some kind.
A key aspect of the burnout syndrome is increased feelings of emotional
exhaustion. As their emotional resources are depleted, workers feel
they are no longer able to give of themselves at a psychological
level. Another aspect is the development of negative, cynical attitudes
and feelings about one's clients. Such negative reactions to clients
may be linked to the experience of emotional exhaustion, i.e. these
two aspects of burnout appear to be somewhat related. This callous
or even dehumanized perception of others can lead staff to view
their clients as somehow deserving of their troubles (Ryan, 1971),
and the prevalence among human service professionals of this negative
attitude toward clients has been well documented (Wills, 1978).
A third aspect of the burnout syndrome is the tendency to evaluate
oneself negatively, particularly with regard to one's work with
clients. Workers feel unhappy about themselves and dissatisfied
with their accomplishments on the job.
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