UACES Facebook Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review: The Burnout Epidemic
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Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review: The Burnout Epidemic

by Lisa Davis - June 28, 2023

Graphic--The Burnout EpidemicDr. Rochelle Sapp photo

The June 2023 Leadership Lunch and Learn book review featured The
Burnout Epidemic, written by Jennifer Moss and reviewed by Dr. Rochelle Sapp, a leadership development specialist in the Office of Learning and Organizational Development at the University of Georgia.

Watch the Recording

Did you know the World Health Organization included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases in 2019?

The burnout definition is “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

There are three dimensions of burnout:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism, and
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

The author recognizes it’s not just an employee problem – it’s an organizational problem that requires organizational solutions.

How does burnout happen?

Sapp shared the following answers to this question.

  • Gallup data claims that roughly 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged at work.
  • If work is satisfying and we feel values and engaged, these are manageable, and we can give them an eye roll.
  • If we feel overworked, undervalued, and micromanaged, these pebbles turn into boulders, impossible to ignore.
  • Tiny pebbles (or workplace cliches) such as:
    • Meetings that consistently go overtime.
    • Someone taking your lunch from the fridge even though your name is on it.
    • Broken copiers.
    • Passive-aggressive notes stuck above the sink.
    • Sloppy dishes lazily left in the sink (and why there is the note).

The author said, “This is not just a leadership book so I can give you tips on how to prevent burnout in your organization. This is also a book about how to rethink burnout entirely.”


There are six root causes of burnout.

  1. Workload—"Employees who strongly agree that they always have too much to do are 2.2 times more likely to say they experience burnout very often or always at work. Even high-performing employees can quickly shift from optimistic to hopeless when they’re struggling with unmanageable performance goals and expectations.”

    A stunning statistic is that work is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. Sapp shared strategies for leaders to manage workload stress.
    • Flexible goal setting – adjust the workload.
    • Ensure people know exactly what is expected of them.
    • Focus on strengths and leveraging employees’ skills and assets.
    • Increase training if people need it.
    • Give everyone a voice at the table to share concerns or ideas.
    • Recognize hard work.
    • Check in frequently but don’t micromanage.
  1. Perceived lack of control—Micromanaging. Employees who experience burnout are three times more likely to feel micromanaged. You can create a dialogue without overstepping:
    • Authentically care about someone’s learning.
    • Make it safe to say, “I’m not OK.”
    • Allow people to disagree.
  1. Lack of reward or recognition—Paying people what they’re worth is appropriate organizational hygiene. What’s often missed is the impact of social rewards like recognition and feedback.
    • Say thank you.
    • Rewarding people’s good ideas by implementing them – hear them and act on it.
    • Start positive gossip.
    • Gather feedback by sharing gratitude.
    • Set a recurring thank you meeting.
  1. Poor relationships—We need a group that provides us with a sense of place, purpose, and belonging.
    • Get people together.
    • Give people places where they can connect about nonwork-related topics (think Slack or Teams channels).
    • Connect people across the entire organization.
    • Perform acts of altruism through volunteering.
    • Monitor unhealthy competition.
    • Build inclusive cultures.
  1. Lack of fairness—Unfair treatment (lack of organizational justice) leads to bias, favoritism, mistreatment by a coworker or supervisor, and unfair compensation and/or policies – people lose trust.
    • Follow similar standards to those found in human rights commissions.
    • It’s not just what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it – even rewards can come across as unfair if given to the wrong people.
    • Identify and recognize the inequities.
  1. Values mismatch—Motivation to work had and persevere drops if employees
    aren’t valuing the same goals as the organization.
    • Reassure overqualified hired they won’t get stuck. Develop a strategy.
    • Consider the fit as the employee and employer.

Sapp said you do not have to experience ALL of these to be burned out. Each one is equally damaging, but some crop up more than others.

A major force behind the causes of burnout is poor organizational hygiene. Examples include paying people what they’re worth, they feel physically and mentally safe, everyone knows what they’re doing or can get access to tools and resources if they don’t, people get along.


Sapp suggested that people should lead with curiosity, defined as having a strong desire to learn or know about something. Curiosity helps us to develop emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and even physically through knowledge attainment. When we quash that process, we stop growing. If we don’t help our employees pursue their curiosity, we are essentially telling them to stop growing. If we want our organizations we lead to flourish, our employees must flourish first.

The book suggests that we build community through curiosity. People feel a stronger sense of belonging when their colleagues check on with them, both personally and professionally. Ways to do this include:

  • Be considerate – how do they like to communicate.
  • Be authentic – establish authentic connections and dig deeper.
  • Remove bias – take time to listen to their perspectives.
  • Assume the best – believe that they mean well.
  • Stay humble.

Sapp then discussed becoming an empathetic leader. Emotional intelligence or psychological fitness is what empathy is as a leadership skill. Empathetic leadership strategies include:  

  • Make your workplace a safe place for grief: loss of life, marriage in a divorce, a job or an identity, culture, our old lives.
  • Causes people to be more disorganized, withdrawn, or anxious.
  • Active listening is key – especially during a crisis.
  • Less monologue, more dialogue.
  • Prioritize physical and psychological safety.
  • Empathy builds trust – we want our employees to have an agency to navigate their emotional and mental experiences at work.

The Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review series features leadership experts from across the south. Each presenter reviews a leadership development book. The series gives you the opportunity to hear the cliff notes version of many popular leadership development books. Join us for future book reviews!

  • July 26, 2023 – The Four Agreements authored by Don Miguel Ruiz and reviewed by Karl Bradley, Extension Foundation. | Register for this session.