Read the stories about Joe in “We Buried Joe Today” and the “A tragic story” about ambulance attendants on pages 432 and 433
(attached in uploads). Comment on the stories and similar ones you may have heard about.
Reference for the following
Manning, G. & Curtis, K. (2015). The art of leadership (5th ed). New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Education
Danger lurks in modern society, and the victim is often the dedicated and talented person. This danger is called burnout, and it
can occur both on the job and in the home. The dictionary definition of burn out is “to fail, wear out, or become exhausted due to
excessive demands on one’s strength, resources, and energy.”
In the human sphere, burnout is what happens when a person experiences physical, psychological, and spiritual fatigue and is unable
to cope. Lack of energy and low vitality are characteristics of physical fatigue. Symptoms of psychological fatigue include
depression and loss of sharpness in thinking and feeling. Spiritual fatigue is characterized by lack of interest and meaning in
life, resulting in unhappiness and pessimism.99
Burnout can strike the businessperson with too many pressures and too little time, the homemaker with too much work and not enough
appreciation, and the friend who is tired of being his or her “brother’s keeper.” The following are common types of burnout
victims. Do any sound familiar to you?
■ Superpeople, who want to do everything themselves because no one else can or will, and they have never let anyone down.
■ Workaholics, who are driven to meet unreasonable demands placed on them (either by themselves or assigned by others).
■ Burned-out Samaritans, who are always giving to others while receiving little help or appreciation in return.
■ Mismatched people, who do their jobs well but who do not like what they are doing.
■ Midcareer coasters, who may once have been high performers but whose enthusiasm is gone.
■ Overstressed students, who are holding down full-time jobs and full course loads.100
Burnout was introduced to the scientific literature in the early 1970s by psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Christina
Maslach. The evocative image of their term has made it a popular topic in the print and electronic media since that time. Extensive
research has also been carried out. A literature search of the Psychological Abstracts reveals 2,446 research articles and nearly
127 books on burnout.101
Burnout is a great equalizer. It is blind to age, sex, color, and creed. It is a condition that can affect both white- and blue-
collar workers as well as those who work at home. Job burnout is widespread in modern society. It is hazardous, and it can be
contagious. If left unchecked, it can harm individual health, human relationships, and organization effectiveness.
The result of burnout is that a company loses its best people at a critical point, or it leaves them so stressed that their
attitude sabotages projects. The result for the individual can be even more tragic, as the following stories show.
We Buried Joe Today
People were surprised when Joe suffered a sudden fatal heart attack since he didn’t seem ill or particularly out of condition. Joe
was a salesman in his late 50s, who went into sales 30 years ago because he could sell anything. He was a great talker, people
liked him, and he was known for his tremendous energy. One day, Joe accepted a position with a large corporation. He liked the idea
of having a big product to push and wanted the security that working for a big company offered him.
Gradually, though, Joe found that what he had accomplished was under siege by younger people who had the kind of energy and
enthusiasm that, after two decades on the job, Joe found hard to muster routinely. The facts before Joe were scary—his mortgage
payments and living expenses were high, his children were in college, and the prospect of retirement loomed darkly before him. The
benefits of his work—a larger home and more expensive toys—suddenly caused more worry than joy.
Joe became troubled over whether he could maintain the pace that he set for himself and his company expected him to meet. He began
pushing himself harder and harder to perform, complaining almost daily that he was losing his touch, that his memory wasn’t as
sharp, that he couldn’t make the number of sales calls he used to, and that he couldn’t put in the hours he did 25 or 30 years ago.
Joe’s fears led to increased irritability. He had trouble sleeping and found himself in a constant state of worry. He even began
drinking to relax and to help him fall asleep. Trying to overcome his alcohol-induced sleep, he began drinking more and more coffee
in the morning to lift the veil of drowsiness. Joe also kept his fears and concerns shielded from what was potentially his greatest
support system—his wife and family.
Finally, Joe’s boss called him into his office one day. Joe had been anticipating this particular call with extreme dread for
weeks. He had seen the trend—his good accounts gradually were being siphoned to younger people, he no longer was invited to
management meetings, and he sensed that people were talking behind his back. Even as Joe became more frantic and desperate, working
harder and longer, his territory was dwindling around him. Joe was at the wrong end of a dangerous game of burnout. When the call
came, Joe knew exactly what it meant. He never made it to his boss’s office.102
A Tragic Story
The job was getting to the ambulance attendant. He felt disturbed by the recurring tragedy, isolated by long shifts. His marriage
was in trouble. He was drinking too much. One night it all blew up.
He rode in back that night. His partner drove. Their first call was for a man whose leg had been cut off by a train. His screaming
and agony were horrifying, but the second call was worse. It was a child-beating. As the attendant treated the youngster’s bruised
body and snapped bones, he thought of his own child. His fury grew.
Immediately after leaving the child at the hospital, the attendants were sent out to help a heart attack victim seen lying in the
street. When they arrived, however, they found not a cardiac patient, but a drunk—a wino passed out. As they lifted the man into
the ambulance, their frustration and anger came to a head. They decided to give the wino a ride he would remember.
The ambulance vaulted over railroad tracks at high speed. The driver took the corners as fast as he could, flinging the wino from
side to side in the back. To the attendants, it was a joke. Suddenly, the man began having a real heart attack. The attendant in
the back leaned over the wino and started shouting, “Die, you . . .,” he yelled. “Die.”
He watched as the wino shuddered. He watched as the wino died. By the time they reached the hospital, they had their stories
straight. “Dead on arrival,” they said. “Nothing we could do.”103