On May 28th 2019 the World Health Organization included burn-out in the revised International Classification of Diseases. Burn-out is not listed as a medical issue, it is called an occupational phenomenon.

“Burn-out is syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced professional efficacy”

The World Health Organization, in their recent statement, signaled its intent to develop guidelines that are evidenced based on mental health in the workplace. They would do well to start with investigating the impact of meaning.

Research on meaning in the workplace describes how meaning has been shown to buffer the negative impact of workplace stress and, conversely, lack of workplace meaning can lead to self-esteem disconnects.

In our soon to be published book: Meaning-Centered Leadership: Why meaning matters in your organization, we offer a simple paradigm for understanding how leaders can create organizational meaning for themselves and others. Our three E’s framework begins with Engagement. By creating trusting relationships leaders can take the first step in battling burn-out.

Our research found agreement by multiple experts that relationships mitigate stress, increase well-being, and improve the quality of others’ lives. If you want healthier employees, focus on creating meaningingful relationships.

The second E in our framework is Empowerment. When leaders use collaborative visioning, enthusiasm, and recognition they create an environment where followers are empowered. We found that leaders who are able to increase individual empowerment promote organizational well-being through the creation of meaning.

The final E is Expertise. When leaders are grounded by universal principles, demonstrate a passion for the future and their people, and take a humble approach, they are more likely to engage and empower their followers by creating deeper organizational meaning.  

The Meaning-Centered Leadership framework of Engagement, Empowerment, and Expertise offers a clear treatment plan to combat occupational diseases such as burn-out.