Mismatched Needs & Desires Can Cause Burnout

While working in a dream role may be a fantasy for some, new research from the University of Zurich suggests that the greater the incongruity between your unconscious desires and the progression opportunities provided at work, the greater the likelihood of suffering from burnout at work.

Researchers asked 100 participants to write short descriptions of different pictures showing people working in different roles. The accounts were evaluated to establish the participants’ unconscious desires and needs, focusing on two key motives:

1. The Power Motive.
Describes the need to take ownership for others and the desire to maintain discipline.

2. The Affiliation Motive.
Describes a strong desire for positive interpersonal relations.

The findings showed overwhelmingly that people who wrote accounts of positive personal relations exhibited the affiliation motive, while those who wrote about influencing others showed evidence of the power motive.

Individuals whose work did not adequately fulfil their desires & motives demonstrated higher potential for burnout, and the bigger the gap between dreams and reality, the more likely they were to burnout. Physical symptoms, such as migraines and general sickness become more common as the mismatch increase, which in turn contributes to increased workplace absence and reduced productivity.

HR departments can attempt to combat burnout caused by mismatch by speaking to their teams regularly about how they feel at work, leaving room to air grievances and change aspects of the job so they are more motive-oriented. It is always possible to improve an employment situation, however finely.