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Staff Burnout - Job Stress in the Human Services

NCJ Number
C Cherniss
Date Published
191 pages
This book examines causes of staff burnout in human services and recommends strategies for alleviating it.
Burnout, a common reaction to job stress, reduces the motivation and effectiveness of many human service providers. Effective management of the motivation and skill of the human services is important because it is through contact with the helper that a client changes and grows. This book is, therefore, intended for all those concerned about job stress and burnout in their own work, as well as for administrators, researchers, university faculty, consultants, and trainers who deal with personnel management in the human services. To this end, the phenomenon of burnout is described and the special relevance of the phenomenon for human service programs is considered. An underlying cause of organizational burnout in human service settings is seen as the psychological stress caused when there is a perceived imbalance between resources and demands (e.g., the demand for competence, or efficacy). Staff who believe they can no longer control the factors which affect their efficacy are seen as vulnerable to 'learned helplessness' and burnout. Two cases of burnout are examined, and the effect of the work setting and organizational design--those formal aspects of a program that can be controlled by planners and administrators--on burnout is explored. The important role of supervisors and coworkers and such other factors such as personality traits, career-related goals and attitudes, and the person's life outside of work, as well as of historical and cultural sources of burnout, are considered. The options offered for alleviating burnout fall into five general categories: staff development, the job and role structure, management development, the organizational problem solving process, and agency goals and guiding philosophies. Footnotes and about 190 references are included.


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