At Burnout Solutions, we spend most of our time looking at what you, personally, can do to enjoy life and work again.  It is certainly true, however, that some of the stressors that lead to burnout are external — you didn't cause them or control them.  Two very famous researchers on burnout point out that the stressful part of these situations can be the poor fit between our own needs and what the organization demands.

In our book we discuss this concept of fit. Here's an excerpt, including a quick assessment you can do to evaluate for yourself  how well you and your workplace fit together.  Finally, we offer some quick suggestions on non-work areas which may also need your attention, in regards to fit.

What are the external factors that lead to burnout? Research has shown that in the workplace, there are six types of stressful situations most likely to lead to burnout. As identified by Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter, stress caused by one or more of these six “mismatches” between you and your work environment has been found to significantly increase your risk for burnout.

  • A sense of control
  • Receiving sufficient reward
  • Having a sense of community with your colleagues
  • Feeling you are being treated fairly
  • Feeling that your core values are shared by the organization
  • Feeling that you have a reasonable workload with the necessary resources to complete it.

Quick Assessment of Six Areas of Worklife

To give an idea of how Drs. Maslach and Leiter assess potential sources of burnout, here are a few items from their book, “Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship with Work.”  Please note, however: they emphasize that this is not a complete survey.

For each item, think about how your current work matches up with your personal preferences, work patterns, and aspirations.


Just Right Mismatch Major Mismatch
The amount of work to complete in a day
The frequency of surprising, unexpected events
My participation in decisions that affect my work
The quality of leadership from upper management
Recognition for achievements from my supervisor
Opportunities for bonuses or raises
The frequency of supportive interactions at work
The closeness of personal friendships at work
Management’s dedication to giving everyone equal consideration
Clear and open procedures for allocating rewards and promotions
The potential of my work to contribute to the larger community
My confidence that the organization’s mission is meaningful


  • If everything is a match, you have found an excellent setting for your work.
  • A few mismatches are not very surprising. People are usually willing and able to tolerate them.
  • A lot of mismatches, and especially major mismatches in areas that are very important to you, are signs of a potentially intolerable situation.


Outside of the workplace, stress from other sources can contribute to your burnout as well. For instance, social support, financial stability, housing security, emotional trauma from illness or death of a loved one, divorce, personal injury or illness, or legal troubles can all play a role. Even otherwise happy occasions, such as getting married or participating in major holidays, can add significant stress.