Employee Burnout: The Five Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Category: Primitive Social Marketing business human resources

Written by: Leisa Redmon

Posted on: July 12, 2019

In a recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees, two-thirds of these individuals stated they experienced burnout either some or all of the time. Workplace burnout was once a hot-ticket phrase to describe doctors and nurses in healthcare; however, with the rise in technology and the idea that the multitasker should be forever revered, it’s no wonder why Americans are experiencing symptoms of burnout firsthand.


Absenteeism is an employee’s intentional or usual absence from work. Some cases of absenteeism are genuine and unavoidable; however, a repeated pattern of absence with no legitimate or foreseeable reason is a sign of employee burnout. As absenteeism is a visible symptom of employee burnout, so too are the physical manifestations of burnout that lead to missing work.

      • Feeling tired 
      • Frequent illnesses
      • Headaches
      • Change in appetite
      • Change in sleep habits


Inefficacy refers to feelings of incompetence and a lack of achievement and productivity. An employee that continually feels as though they’re swimming against the current will eventually fall victim to burnout, as what they want to achieve might not be feasible due to a mixture of burnout symptoms (exhaustion, frequent illnesses, etc.).


A sudden, or even gradual, lack of engagement in workplace conversations and activities is another sign of employee burnout, especially in those individuals that see themselves as Type-A personalities with reputations as high achievers. What once provided excitement, value, intrigue, and even entertainment might have somehow lost its zeal if they’re on the path to burnout. A disengaged employee might experience: 

  • Decreased productivity
  • Procrastination on projects
  • An increase in the number of deadlines missed 



Mental quicksand” is a term used in sports psychology to denote when an athlete has a moment of poor performance that leads to feeling overwhelmed. This negative cycle of cause and effect ultimately leads to a lack of confidence and a continued feeling that whatever the individual does will never be enough to catch up. Even the highest caliber employees can fall victim to mental quicksand and the psychological and physical exhaustion that comes with it. A few indicators of an employee in this stressed state are:

  • Always working after regular business hours
  • Not taking vacation days
  • Skipping lunch or always eating at their desk to be “more productive”
  • A mentality fixated on being the “first one in and last one out”

Easily triggered

Not all individuals are meant to be best friends, and the employees at the workplace are no exception. However, if a once mild-mannered employee’s patience for critique seems to be waning, it’s a fair assumption the individual might have reached their threshold for what they feel as though they can tolerate within the company. The more an employee seems to be on the verge of a workplace outburst or confrontation, the more likely you can assume they’ve reached their limits. 

Many workplaces are paving the way for their own modern interpretation of what a workplace culture looks like – relaxed dress codes, catered lunches, flexible time off, and more. While these are sure to entice many employees to your company, it’s important to ensure your team is utilizing these incentives to the fullest when adopting self-care habits to mitigate employee burnout.

Try as we might, there are just some cases that fall through the cracks. It’s our job as advocates for our employees to notice the signs of employee burnout in order to do our best to help them out of it and back onto a path of success.

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