Suffering burnout on a job

Fifty four per cent polled here are unhappy at work. Singapore is second most dissatisfied in Asia-Pacific in this poll. (Global recruitment firm, Randstad)

Looking back eight years ago and on reflection, I have to admit that I experienced burn-out while on a job. Burn-out is a stress condition when your adaptation is diminished due to prolonged disillusionment, leading to collapse both psychologically and physically, i.e. the person gives up. (Dr Jeffrey G.T. Po, Counselling Psychotherapist)

To say that you had burnout on a job is not a glorious thing to admit in our Asian culture. So we give less damaging reasons to quit a job, such as health reason, embarking on personal pursuits, etc. This is not entirely untrue as burn-out leads to poor health and psychological agony.

Only recently, I had the courage to read my hand-written journal (March 2004 to March 2005) while searching for some information. It was not a pretty read. Stress and anguish were written all over in the one-year period. I stopped writing after March 2005 when it became a chore to even record happenings each day.

When I rose through the corporate ladder, I became sandwiched between senior management and the colleagues I was managing. It was never easy to harmonise the goals of upper echelon and the aspirations of your subordinates. I took on more assignments (including new initiatives) and roles than I could cope. I did not know how to say no without jeopardising my career path. More functions were added without any reduction of existing roles. When you pride yourself in being conscientious and to maintain quality output, you then push your limit. I was no super-human and this did impact my health in a significant way.

In that kind of an environment, it would be helpful for your immediate boss to able to read the situation correctly and understand how you were coping. We ourselves must also take initiative to talk about our work stress in an honest way. Suffering in silence is not good for you and the organisation. The organisation fails to retain staff and you lose your job.

Was my decision to quit the corporate world a right one back then? Was it good or bad… who knows? Right this moment, it appears alright. It may appear that I am a quitter. But without the bold move, I would not be able to experience my current freedom to do what I wanted to do. Looking at the long road ahead (10, 20, 30 years depending on how long you live), I have to find activities to occupy me in a meaningful way. That is the future and I will take certain course of actions when it arrives and not now. Who knows what is going to happen next? Stay happy!

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