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Executive burnout Featured

9:20am EDT March 28, 2002

Downsizing, layoffs and budget cuts are all byproducts of economic recession. So are stress and a rise in executive-level burnout, says Joan Simon, Ph.D., and a clinical psychologist at Columbus-based Matrix Integrated Psychological Services.

"I do a lot of one-on-one work with top managers and executives," says Simon. "And the cause of executive burnout usually lies more in the organization's environment than the individual."

Common causes are work overload, a feeling of lack of control and/or insufficient reward, and a breakdown of workplace relationships, Simon says.

Recognizing the early signs of burnout and addressing it before it begins affecting your work or business is important. Symptoms start with an erosion of commitment to the job and develop into increased anger and anxiety, then depression.

"That's when the person comes in (for counseling)," says Simon.

Prevention techniques start with the development of clear proposals for changes in the workplace.

"We do a Quality of Worklife Process," says Simon. "And it is a process. We work with the individual, work groups and management teams."

Simon says larger issues are harder to handle, but just addressing them can help. The Quality of Worklife Process is a survey given to management teams that allows executives to develop conclusions or proposals and put all the issues on the table.

"We can't solve everything, but it helps to restore or establish trust," says Simon.

If burnout has already occurred, it can be dealt with the same way, through a process of developing changes.

"If we can't do the process with the company, then we work with individuals," says Simon. "We work with executives and managers to help them gain a better understanding of their behavior, as well as others'. It's about getting that personal power back." How to reach: Matrix Integrated Psychological Services, (614) 475-9500 or www.employee-assistance.com