5 Signs of Emotional Exhaustion at Work

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Christy Matta M.A. is a trainer, consultant and writer. She is the author of “The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free ...Read More

Burnout can strike in any profession. Nearly one in two physicians say they are burned out, those in helping professions often experience symptoms, and when you’re working long hours, experiencing pressures or feeling without options in any profession, you may be at risk for burnout.

Are you run down or drained of energy? Thinking negative thoughts about work? Are you easily irritated by small problems or by your co-workers?


One of the key features of burn out at work is emotional exhaustion, that is, those feelings that you are overextended and exhausted by your work.

5 Signs of Emotional Exhaustion

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Negative Feelings: Frustration and irritation at work are common when you’re emotionally exhausted. Your frustration might be focused on parts of the job, coworkers behavior, or job politics and bureaucracy.

Feeling Pressured and Out of Time: When we’re emotionally exhausted we don’t have the resources to handle the pressures of the job. You might find yourself feeling pressure to succeed, without time to finish your work or do a good job or without time to plan for your day and proactively deal with work demands.

Negative Thoughts: Our thoughts are closely linked to our feelings. When we’re feeling bad, we’re also often thinking negative thoughts. Thinking “I’m alone,” having overly judgmental thoughts towards your co-workers or the organization or thinking harsh thoughts about yourself are all common signs of emotional exhaustion. Thoughts that “I shouldn’t have to deal with this” “this is unfair” or “my coworkers/supervisors/management are incompetent” are judgmental thoughts that might be a sign of emotional exhaustion.

Strained Relationships: Feelings of isolation and negative thoughts about coworkers, supervisors and administrators can leave you with strained relationships at work, adding to feeling isolated and unappreciated.

Counterproductive Work Behaviors: When you’re emotionally exhausted, you may feel drained or depleted and find that you are more emotional at work. When you’re emotionally exhausted, you may lose the ability or desire to resist temptation. As a result, you may end up acting in ways you otherwise wouldn’t. Do you find yourself acting in ways that undermine your colleagues or the company for which you work? Examples might include anything from stealing, or fraudulent behavior to purposeful tardiness and avoiding safety measures.

There is typically legitimate reason for emotional exhaustion at work. Long hours, lack of appreciation, increased work demands and job insecurity are a few factors that can cause emotional exhaustion.

Identifying your own emotional exhaustion is important. When we’re emotionally exhausted we’re more likely to make errors at work-a significant problem in professions that involve medical care or those in which safety is at risk when errors occur. And counterproductive work behaviors can derail a successful career.

Although there is no one best way to address emotional exhaustion at work, recognizing the issue and seeking help can make a difference. Even when you have good reason to feel depleted, it’s preferable to make choices about your work proactively, rather than find yourself out of a job because of work errors, a bad attitude or illegal behaviors.

Keep Reading By Author Christy Matta, M.A.
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