Apathy at work – a close look at the issue

Work is not fun: burnout or apathy?

If every Sunday is spoiled by the heavy anticipation of the upcoming work week, and in the middle of the day you want to get up and leave the office wherever you can see it, it may indicate that you have apathy. On how to recognize it and not to lead himself to a complete burnout, says psychology professor Susan Degges-White.

I have good news for you: the crushing sense of dread of another excruciatingly long day at work, which we habitually call “burnout,” has finally been included in the international classification of diseases of the World Health Organization. This syndrome has been officially recognized and given the code ICD-11. This means that it is also recognized that a person may have worked so hard – physically, emotionally, intellectually, or even spiritually – that they are no longer able to continue in the same vein due to overwork.

Whether we are fighting “on the front lines” for the good of the nation or deep behind the scenes responding to customer complaints, inputting data into a database or collecting user information on behalf of the boss, we can experience something akin to burnout.

Symptoms of burnout

Research shows that burnout has been an issue of concern since about the mid-1970s, but until recently, attempts to label the condition as a disease have failed.

Now the situation has changed, and a physician can identify burnout by three symptoms:

  • A feeling of emptiness and lack of energy,
  • increasing mental distancing from work or negative and even cynical attitude towards it,
  • a decrease in professional efficiency – in legal terms, “dishonest performance of duties”.

All these are similar to the manifestations of other behavioral disorders, for example, depression or anxiety. Therefore, the key to diagnosing burnout is the relationship between symptoms and work. However, the relationship with work often greatly affects your overall condition as well, so at first glance the line can be blurred.

If you work Monday through Friday, you may be anxious as the weekend draws to a close and a new work week looms ahead.

Hello, “Sunday Syndrome.”

In high school, my kids came up with the name for the “illness” that grips some students and adults on Sundays by mid-afternoon. The feeling of dread, dejection and anxiety associated with the end of the weekend and the impending start of another school week, they called Sunday Syndrome.

While some people enjoy their last free hours and even look forward to the onset of the weekday so they can get back to the work they love, others are unable to enjoy Sunday evening because of the bad mood associated with the impending Monday. Although Sunday syndrome is not yet planned to be made official, it can be a sign of impending or already occurring burnout.

Burnout or apathy?

Many centuries ago an eighth, apathy, was added to the list of the seven deadly sins or “bad thoughts. Sometimes monks would reach a state where they could no longer perform their daily duties. The term was first used to describe this phenomenon. The words “laziness” and “sluggishness” describe apathetic behavior, but they do not cover the whole spectrum of emotional experience.

These days, the symptoms of apathy resemble burnout. Theologically, the loss of the ability to rejoice and enjoy comfort meant indifference to the world and an inability to appreciate and appreciate the existential issues of life.

“I can no longer” can be apathy.

Today apathy manifests itself in an overwhelming indifference–to work, to necessary daily activities, or to any other activity that requires effort. Instead, we wander the Internet, talk to a virtual assistant, or mindlessly flick a remote control. We often call this depression, even if we are not feeling sad, but only “disconnected” from the routine. Doing simple things becomes unbearably boring.

Apathy can also appear in personal relationships if we have to put too much effort into “really being together. Some people are encouraged to run away from “real life” and lurk where nothing is expected of them.

In creativity, apathy can manifest itself as “writer’s block” – a state in which one cannot put a single stroke on, cannot write on a single line or express oneself in any other way. In business, it is the sudden realization that the large payment received was not worth the effort, the listening to customer chatter, the meetings with producers. It is the hour by hour growing desire to scream, “I can’t take it anymore!”

Ways to heal

When burnout occurs, experts recommend seeking support from friends and family or a professional. Mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga and tai chi also help to bring the lost balance back into your life. Regular exercise is necessary to maintain a normal physical and emotional state, and proper rest (first of all, healthy sleep) helps to regroup and restore inner resources. When our work commitments outweigh our duty of care, we have to sacrifice both-and to a much greater extent than one might imagine.

As in the treatment of depression, it is advisable to do anything that involves us. If it’s typing, we just keep banging away at the keys. If it’s watering the vegetable garden, keep watering. And do not forget about daily walks and regular exercise practices to maintain physical fitness and control the state of mind.

How to defeat apathy in employees and increase productivity

Apathy – absolute indifference to what you do – in workplaces in organizations is often the result of a disconnect between what matters to a person and what they are forced to do. That said, such indifference is not always properly measured. Team members’ productivity may not be at its best for a variety of reasons, such as personal stress, burnout at work, office quarrels, etc. How do you beat apathy?

Sometimes the best way to identify a lack of engagement is to simply ask: Do you like what you’re doing?

Mood matters

The problem with the lack of engagement lies in an outdated mentality: you have a task and you have to do it, and the process has nothing to do with having fun. But after speaking with Dr. Daniel Siegel, I would argue that the joy of accomplishing a task can increase productivity, stimulate employee engagement – and keep them in the workplace.

Siegel says, “There is an area of the brain that is involved in shaping emotions that is responsible for cheerfulness. In fact, it promotes brain plasticity. It engages creative approaches that can really benefit the worker. We too often separate work and fun. Meanwhile, bringing more joy into our work lives is very important from a neurological perspective.”

One of the most positive leadership styles is called affirmative leadership (which promotes and strengthens friendships, expressed through sympathy, attention and participation). Such leaders know that having a pleasant time with employees is not a wasted effort. They recognize that it generates positive energy and builds social and emotional capital (the emotional experiences, values and beliefs of company employees that create a good working relationship for business success). Dr. Siegel explains why enjoyable, joyful activities are important for effective brain function.

Reconsider the reward system.

“Play is associated with increased dopamine (which is called the happiness hormone) release processes. This creates a system of rewards and incentives for employees. The feelings that arise encourage exploration, experimentation, discovery of new ideas, which is very important for productive work.”

Interest breeds motivation. Creativity breeds innovation. Every organization needs this creative energy of its employees; it is a prerequisite for its survival.

When you fully master a particular skill, the work turns into a routine. In this case, a person can do the job effectively, but where to find the motivation to learn something new if he has to perform the same kind of unconfigurable tasks day after day? All this routine is what keeps creativity from developing.

A solid base

To develop innovation, you really have to want people to go beyond their usual functions and have fun finding and finding new combinations. This has to do with a kind of vulnerability. People need to feel that they are in a work environment that respects their desire to go outside the box, and that if their search leads to nothing, there is nothing wrong and it will be perceived as normal.

The teacher, for example, needs to create a classroom environment in which children feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. They need to know that it is good to explore new ways of learning. Organizations need to develop the same positive attitude toward research and innovation.

Empathy is important

There are two leadership styles that have an extremely negative impact on the organizational environment. The first style is command-administrative control, characterized by a “Just do it because I’m the boss and I said so” attitude. The other is exercised by the leader who sets the pace of the company and is often characterized by very high standards of performance within the organization. This is the lone performer who spurs and motivates himself to work. When he becomes the boss, he does not rely on any style of leadership. He cites a simple example. “Do as I do.” And he looks at other people through the lens of that perfection, extremely low on the performance of his employees.

This lack of empathy makes the other person feel misunderstood and disrespected, which invariably leads to frustration. This approach is unlikely to increase team productivity.

What can you do?

How can you bring more meaning and enjoyment to each member of your team and at the same time not hurt their core functions?

    Have a conversation about what they would like to accomplish in the next 3 or 6 months. Ask them to pay extra attention to something they enjoy doing or have always wanted to try.
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