To Prevent Burnout, Show Employees How They Help

To Prevent Burnout, Show Employees How They Help

How can managers prevent burnout in employees who don’t like their jobs? Show them how their work helps others.
Pam Laughland August 20, 2010
By shifting their attention outwards, employees dwell less on their tasks and focus more on the positive impact of their work on others. An additional bonus – employees who are less burned out not only feel better about themselves and their job, they perform better. 


Employee burnout is a common concern for companies today. Emotional exhaustion brings with it lower performance and customer service, both of which can quickly kill your business. Researchers have found that employees who view their work or themselves focus negatively on the unpleasantness of their tasks. However, little is known about strategies to guard against burnout under these circumstances. Grant and Sonnentag conducted two related studies – one on university fundraisers and another on public sanitation employees – to see how to buffer against burnout.


Implications for Managers

Implications for Researchers

This research suggests that focusing on helping others may improve performance of employees with negative task and self-perceptions.


The authors surveyed 82 university fundraisers and 215 employees and supervisors at a public sanitation plant. The survey asked employees to indicate on Likert-type scales the extent to which they agreed with statements about their emotional exhaustion, intrinsic motivation, core self-evaluations, perceived pro-social impact, and controls. Supervisors were asked to rate employees’ overall job performance. They computed correlations in study 1 and developed a model to test whether emotional exhaustion mediated the effects of perceived pro-social impact on the relationship of intrinsic motivation and core self-evaluation with performance.
Grant, Adam M. and Sabine Sonnentag. (2010) Doing good buffers against feeling bad: Prosocial impact compensates for negative task and self-evaluations. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 111 p13-22.

Related Resources

Research Insight

Discover how baking sustainability into your firm's HR processes attracts better, more motivated talent. 

Agnès Rossignol
Research Insight

Environmental controls can be costly and inefficient. Read how preventative measures and a committed workforce are key to good environmental management.

Pam Laughland
Research Insight

Workplace conflict can have dire financial consequences as a result of loss in productivity. Discover how to empower employees again with team meetings.

Kristin Neudorf
Research Insight

If your company employs many highly skilled workers, you may be expected to step up on work-life balance. 

Pam Laughland