Burnout is widespread in customer service today. as well as feelings of ineffectiveness or even frustration and cynicism in relation to their job. Obvious though it might sound, to be away from stress it is essential to get enough sleep, eat healthy Trying to manage multiple tasks at the same time hurts. The study examines the associations between customer aggression and service providers' sense of empowerment, coping strategies, and burnout. Find out about the symptoms and causes of career burnout, and learn how to avoid it. a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward. While these stress management techniques have been shown to have a.
Another factor affecting quantitative workload is interruptions during the workday. Lin, Kain, and Fritz found that interruptions delay completion of job tasks, thus adding to the perception of workload.
Work-family conflict significantly relates to work-related outcomes e. Strains Individuals and organizations can experience work-related strains. In the industrial and organizational IO psychology literature, organizational strains are mostly observed as macro-level indicators, such as health insurance costs, accident-free days, and pervasive problems with company morale.
In contrast, individual strains, usually referred to as job strains, are internal to an employee. They are responses to work conditions and relate to health and well-being of employees. Job strains tend to fall into three categories: Behavioral strains consist of actions that employees take in response to job stressors. Examples of behavioral strains include employees drinking alcohol in the workplace or intentionally calling in sick when they are not ill Spector et al. Physical strains consist of health symptoms that are physiological in nature that employees contract in response to job stressors.
Headaches and ulcers are examples of physical strains. Lastly, psychological strains are emotional reactions and attitudes that employees have in response to job stressors. Examples of psychological strains are job dissatisfaction, anxiety, and frustration Spector et al.
Interestingly, research studies that utilize self-report measures find that most job strains experienced by employees tend to be psychological strains Spector et al.
Each of the frameworks presented advances different aspects that need to be identified in order to understand the source and potential remedy for stressors and strains. In some models, the focus is on resources, in others on the interaction of the person and environment, and in still others on the role of the person in the workplace. Field Theory The premise of Kahn et al.
Thus, to make changes to an organizational system, it is necessary to understand a field and try to move that field from the current state to the desired state. Making this move necessitates identifying mechanisms influencing individuals. However, those relationships have been met with somewhat varied results, which Glazer and Beehr concluded might be a function of differences in culture, an environmental factor often neglected in research.
Researchers of IO psychology have narrowed the environment to the organization or work team. Person-Environment Fit Theory The P-E fit framework focuses on the extent to which there is congruence between the person and a given environment, such as the organization Caplan, ; Edwards, Karasek and Theorell posited that high job demands under conditions of little decision latitude or control yield high strains, which have varied implications on the health of an organization e.
Whether focusing on control or resources, both they and job demands are said to reflect workplace characteristics, while control and resources also represent coping strategies or tools Siegrist, Testing the interaction between job demands and control, Beehr, Glaser, Canali, and Wallwey did not find empirical support for the JD-C theory.
If the demands are challenging, though manageable, but latitude to control the challenging stressors and support are insufficient, the organization could modify practices and train employees on adopting better strategies for meeting or coping secondary stress management intervention with the demands.
Finally, if the organization can neither afford to modify the demands or the level of control and support, it will be necessary for the organization to develop stress management tertiary interventions to deal with the inevitable strains. Hobfoll focuses on resources such as objects, personal characteristics, conditions, or energies as particularly instrumental to minimizing strains.
He asserts that people do whatever they can to protect their valued resources. Thus, strains develop when resources are threatened to be taken away, actually taken away, or when additional resources are not attainable after investing in the possibility of gaining more resources Hobfoll, By extension, organizations can invest in activities that would minimize resource loss and create opportunities for resource gains and thus have direct implications for devising primary and secondary stress management interventions.
Transactional Framework Lazarus and Folkman developed the widely studied transactional framework of stress. This framework holds as a key component the cognitive appraisal process. When individuals perceive factors in the work environment as a threat i. If the coping resources provide minimal relief, strains develop. Similarly, Dawson et al. In fact, prolonged perception of a work contract imbalance leads to adverse health, including immunological problems and inflammation, which contribute to cardiovascular disease Siegrist, The psychological contract, like the ERI model, focuses on social exchange.
Furthermore, the psychological contract, like stress theories, are influenced by cultural factors that shape how people interpret their environments Glazer, ; Thomas et al. To remediate strain, Siegrist focuses on both the person and the environment, recognizing that the organization is particularly responsible for changing unfavorable work conditions and the person is responsible for modifying his or her reactions to such conditions.
The concept behind Force Field Analysis is that in order to survive, organizations must adapt to environmental forces driving a need for organizational change and remove restraining forces that create obstacles to organizational change. In order to do this, management needs to delineate the current field in which the organization is functioning, understand the driving forces for change, identify and dampen or eliminate the restraining forces against change.
Several models for analyses may be applied, but most approaches are variations of organizational climate surveys. Through organizational surveys, workers provide management with a snapshot view of how they perceive aspects of their work environment. Indeed, French and Kahn posited that well-being depends on the extent to which properties of the person and properties of the environment align in terms of what a person requires and the resources available in a given environment.
Therefore, only when properties of the person and properties of the environment are sufficiently understood can plans for change be developed and implemented targeting the environment e.eCRM or electronic customer relationship management with Examples - Business Studies - Mathur Sir
In short, climate survey findings can guide consultants about the emphasis for organizational interventions: For each of the primary preventionsecondary copingand tertiary stress management techniques the target for intervention can be the entire workforce, a subset of the workforce, or a specific person. Interventions that target the entire workforce may be considered organizational interventions, as they have direct implications on the health of all individuals and consequently the health of the organization.
Several interventions categorized as primary and secondary interventions may also be implemented after strains have developed and after it has been discerned that a person or the organization did not do enough to mitigate stressors or strains see Figure 1.
The designation of many of the interventions as belonging to one category or another may be viewed as merely a suggestion. Primary Interventions Preventative Stress Management Before individuals begin to perceive work-related stressors, organizations engage in stress prevention strategies, such as providing people with resources e. However, sometimes the institutional structures and resources are insufficient or ambiguous.
Scholars and practitioners have identified several preventative stress management strategies that may be implemented. Planning is a future-oriented activity that focuses on conceptual and comprehensive work goals. Time management is a behavior that focuses on organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling work activities to achieve short-term goals.
Given the purpose of time management, it is considered a primary intervention, as engaging in time management helps to prevent work tasks from mounting and becoming unmanageable, which would subsequently lead to adverse outcomes. Time management comprises three fundamental components: However, Macan did not find a relationship between time management and performance. Scores are considered high when they are situated in the upper third of the normative distribution.
Average scores are situated in the middle third, whilst low scores are situated in the lower third Maslach et al. In the present study, high burnout would be indicated by a score above 84, whilst low burnout would be indicated by a score below Only one respondent in the present sample could be classified as displaying high burnout. Forty respondents were classified as displaying moderate levels of burnout with scores between 42 and 85 whilst the rest were classified as displaying low burnout.
Since the aim of the research was to compare the role identities of high and low burnout employees, the 16 respondents measuring the highest in total burnout and the 16 respondents scoring the lowest on total burnout were invited to participate in the interviews. In order to ensure representation of the three companies, at least two respondents from each of the three companies were included in both the higher and lower burnout group and invited for interviews.
A total of eight higher burnout and nine lower burnout interview respondents eventually agreed to be interviewed. The higher burnout group included one respondent who could be regarded as experiencing high burnout, whilst the other seven displayed moderate levels of burnout, with burnout scores ranging from All respondents in the lower burnout group reflected low levels of burnout, with burnout scores between 6 and The mean age of respondents was The higher burnout group included three female and five male subjects, whereas the lower burnout group consists of four female and five male subjects.
Five of the higher burnout subjects were from the white population group, whilst the other three were mixed-race. All the subjects in the lower burnout grouping were white. The lower burnout group included three subjects from Company M and six from Company T. No lower burnout respondents from Company F were included in the interview sample.
It is unlikely that this would have affected the results of the research in any meaningful or significant way, given that the specific type of client service work conducted by the respondents did not appear to meaningfully affect the construction of the client service role identity in this diverse sample. None of these variables was therefore used as a criterion for selecting the qualitative sample. Data collection and recording The semi-structured interviews were designed to elicit rich, reflective narratives from client service employees relating to self-definitions and expectations for role-related behaviours.
Serving up the self: Role identity and burnout in client service environments
The interview schedule commenced with a general question asking the respondent to explain their specific role in the organisation. This was followed by questions relating to the client and the client relationship, employee perceptions of management expectations and role-related expectations.
The interview schedule made use of descriptive and experience or example questions Janesick, The use of experience questions was regarded as particularly important in order to understand the level of congruence between respondents' perceptions and actual behaviours.
Probing took various forms including silence, encouragement, asking for immediate clarification, retrospective clarification, immediate elaboration or retrospective elaboration Keats,p. All semi-structured interviews were digitally recorded and accompanied by field notes before they were transcribed verbatim. Strategies employed to ensure data quality and integrity As proposed by Morse, Barret, Mayan, Olson and Spiersa number of verification strategies to ensure the rigour of qualitative data were used in this study.
The analysis delivered a two-factor solution and one item was removed from the instrument due to strong cross-loading.
The quantitative stratification of the sample into high burnout and low burnout client service employees contributed to the trustworthiness of the results as the interviewer had an objective measure of burnout rather than having to infer burnout levels from the interviews. The semi-structured interviews, which were all conducted by the same interviewer, facilitated analytical comparison between each of the respondents and allowed the researcher to probe for clarity in cases of ambiguity.
Explanations for qualitative observations are generally confirmed by the literature and where observations are not confirmed, it is clearly stated. Methodological and analytical coherence were ensured by considering the study's research questions during both axial and selective coding. Qualitative conclusions were drawn by comparing and contrasting cases, and negative instances are clearly mentioned and accounted for.
Although a number of respondents declined to participate in the qualitative interviews, every effort was made to ensure that only respondents representing the highest and lowest burnout scores were included in the sample, thereby ensuring an appropriate sample. Data analysis All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Atlas.
Data were analysed by comparing the role identities and associated dimensions of higher burnout employees with those of lower burnout employees.
The coding process followed the analysis approach suggested by Grbich and Miles and Hubermancommencing with open coding, followed by axial coding and then selective coding. During the open coding phase, a total of codes were created in the higher burnout hermeneutic unit, whilst a total of codes were initially created in the lower burnout hermeneutic unit.
Once the open coding process was completed, axial coding commenced in which codes generated through open coding were reconsidered and similar codes were grouped together. A total of 30 codes were eventually created in the higher burnout hermeneutic unit and 21 codes were created in the lower burnout hermeneutic unit.
Finally, selective coding was conducted in which initial categories were examined in terms of their temporal and spatial relationships and were provided with context, resulting in the following six themes: Client service employee perceptions of the client Higher burnout respondents differ from their lower burnout counterparts in their descriptions of the client. Higher burnout respondents describe the client as powerful, controlling, authoritarian and having unreasonable expectations.
Five of the eight higher burnout respondents describe their clients as abusive and included references to being 'threatened' by the client, 'taking punches' from the client and being 'undermined' and 'crushed' by the client. One respondent was made to feel like a 'piece of dirt' beneath the client's feet and another describes having clients that 'crack you down as a person'. On the other hand, lower burnout respondents appear to exhibit more positive perceptions of the client.
Although they perceive the client as demanding, they view their clients as appreciative, understanding and trusting: Self-descriptions of the client service role The second theme that emerged from the data includes reference to the manner in which client service employees define their roles in relation to the client. Higher burnout respondents view themselves as subordinate to the client and generally display a sense of defeat when dealing with the client: I think I say underdog because most of the time we end up having to do what the client says anyway.
They feel confident in being able to satisfy the needs of the client and describe themselves as knowledgeable experts who can add value to the client's business: As soon as you get into a company that services clients, it's the first things that you learn - the client is always right.
Even though you know they are not. The challenges are that nothing is impossible; it's a mindset. The behavioural expectation occurring most frequently amongst higher burnout respondents is a belief that the client always comes first no matter what. Included in this expectation is a sense of self-sacrifice on the part of the client service employee: Sometimes it gets like you are pulled here and pulled there and you need to perform to help the client. The primary person in this whole thing would be the client.
When describing their roles, all higher burnout respondents mention that they often have to go above and beyond the call of duty to assist the client.
In many cases, they are even prepared to go against company processes and procedures in order to keep the client happy: Lower burnout respondents, on the other hand, clearly endeavour to partner with the client. A number of lower burnout respondents actually use the word 'partner' or 'partnership' when describing the relationships they have with their clients, whilst other lower burnout respondents refer to the relationship as symbiotic, in that both the client and the client service employee or company derive some benefit from the relationship.
Although lower burnout respondents do aim to assist the client to the best of their ability, they are able to separate themselves from the role and do not take the client's demands personally: Behavioural and affective implications of the role identity The next theme that emerged from the data makes reference to the behavioural, affective and attitudinal implications of identity expectations for client service employees.
Higher burnout respondents tend to personalise the client relationship and take personal responsibility for the client's demands. By identifying with the clients problems and empathising with them, higher burnout respondents tend to internalise the client's needs. One higher burnout respondent refers to developing 'broad' shoulders in order to bear the client's problems, whilst another mentions that the stress experienced by her client tends to 'ripple' into her: You are there to listen to the client's problems and assist them.
Most of the time it is - I mean it is a personalised business. They cite numerous instances when they are unable to stand up for themselves when interacting with the client, resulting in feelings of helplessness and powerlessness: I mean, I can't call the shots and say do this' Respondent 5.
In contrast, lower burnout respondents report being able to manage the client and exert a certain degree of control and influence over the client. They are able to distance themselves from the client and appear more task-orientated when compared with higher burnout respondents. Lower burnout respondents also appear to take their roles less personally than higher burnout respondents do: I mean, you know you can't take it personally and you can't make judgments on them as a person - it's just the way they work.
The interviews with higher burnout respondents indicated that they experience a fair amount of guilt for not helping the client and, as a consequence, feel little self-verification. They report feeling unable to help the client in the way that they would have liked - even when they have exercised all their options. Many higher burnout respondents are not happy with the quality of service they are giving the client, but feel unable to do any better. They express being 'emotionally challenged', 'emotionally drained', 'stupid' and 'in need of psychoanalysis' to cope with the stress: And just taking a pin and popping it and just having a clump of nothing with a hole in the end.
They are of the opinion that they are able to assist and impress the client and make a positive contribution to the companies for which they work. Lower burnout respondents also report receiving a great deal of appreciation from the client, contributing to the sense of self-verification: That sense of satisfaction - it is very gratifying to feel that you've helped them, that you've improved their business somehow.
Discussion Outline of the results The purpose of this research was to explore the relationship between role identity and burnout amongst client service employees. The results from the study indicate that the self-descriptions of higher burnout respondents differ from the self-descriptions of lower burnout respondents, thereby suggesting that the role identities of higher burnout employees differ from the role identities of lower burnout client service employees.
Whilst lower burnout respondents view themselves as more knowledgeable than and superior to the client, higher burnout respondents describe themselves as subordinate to the client. Our findings also show that the role-related expectations of higher burnout employees differ from the role-related expectations of lower burnout employees. In the case of higher burnout respondents, the subordinated role identity appears to carry specific behavioural expectations that are different from the expectations contained within the role identities of lower burnout respondents.
Firstly, higher burnout employees appear to internalise the organisational expectation that they assist the client no matter what. This is evidenced by the fact that higher burnout employees report they will often go above and beyond the call of duty to assist the client.
In many instances, higher burnout employees will break company policy and procedure in order to address the client's demands. Whilst lower burnout employees also aim to provide excellent client service, they are able to distance themselves from the client service role and do not display evidence of breaking with company policy or procedure. According to Chung and Schneiderclient service employees suffer considerable stress because they are often expected to satisfy both the client and their employers.
This results in considerable role conflict, characterised by incompatibility between the various expectations associated with a single role, as the needs of the client may clash with company policy and procedure. This role conflict was evident amongst the higher burnout employees that participated in the interviews. Whilst they are in most instances prepared to break company policy in order to assist the client, they are also very aware that they could be punished by the employing organisation for doing so.
Lower burnout respondents do not appear to display such role conflict. They are able to distance themselves from the role and report unreasonable clients to management or co-workers. Because lower burnout respondents describe themselves as superior to and more knowledgeable than the client, they expect cooperation and respect from the client.
This expectation seems to have facilitated the development of a partnership with the client. By referring to the client service relationship as a partnership, lower burnout respondents create a culture of reciprocity between themselves and the client.
This sense of reciprocity appears to inhibit the development of burnout amongst these respondents in that it implies that the client carry some responsibility for the outcome of the service relationship.
From the research results it appears that the role-related behaviours and attitudes of higher burnout employees differ from the role-related behaviours and attitudes of lower burnout employees.
Lower burnout employees are far more task and solution orientated, whilst higher burnout employees are focused on establishing personal relationships with the client and tend to take sole or personal responsibility for the client. Lower burnout employees are able to distance themselves from the client service role and are able to manage and exert influence over the client, whilst higher burnout employees tend to empathise and identify with the clients' problems - possibly resulting in role overload and emotional exhaustion.
This finding that higher burnout client service employees tend to identify with and personalise the client relationship runs counter to one of the central consequences of burnout: This finding is, however, congruent with the results of a study conducted by Vanheule et al. Low burnout individuals, on the other hand, manage to maintain a subjective distance from the client, hold flexible expectations with regard to client outcomes and attribute failure to the client context rather than their own inadequacies Vanheule et al.
The reason as to why higher burnout client service employees included in the present research do not depersonalise the client relationship could be explained through reference to their role-related expectations.
As already indicated, the role identities of higher burnout employees entail a perceived obligation that they help the client no matter what. By virtue of their subordinate role identities and the fact that they describe their clients as controlling and dictatorial, higher burnout employees also perceive a lack of autonomy in and control over the client service situation.
Consequently, these individuals experience a sense of powerlessness, helplessness and defeat.
Work, Stress, Coping, and Stress Management - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology
According to Burke's identity control model, individuals are likely to adjust their role-related behaviours when they perceive that the situational outcomes do not match the expectations contained in the identity standard. It could therefore be argued that higher burnout employees compensate for their lack of autonomy, control and resources by engaging with the client on a personal level.
Since they are unable to assist the client appropriately through other means, empathising and identifying with the client may be the only means through which higher burnout respondents feel able to assist the client and live up to their role-related expectations. By identifying and empathising with the client, higher burnout respondents are likely to engage in role overload, resulting in the development of emotional exhaustion.
As our research has shown, the role identities of client service employees appear to carry implications for role-related behaviours and attitudes which, in turn, appear to facilitate or inhibit the development of burnout. A further way in which role identities can contribute to the development of burnout is through the process of self-verification.
According to Burkeindividuals attempt to act in accordance with the expectations contained within the identity standard. Failure to match role-related outcomes with these expectations results in failed self-verification, which could contribute to the development of burnout Cherniss, The results of our study show that lower burnout respondents experience a large degree of self-verification, whilst higher burnout respondents experience a sense of defeat and feel guilt for not helping the client.
Higher burnout respondents also report feeling humiliated by the companies for which they work and, coupled with a sense of defeat, experience little self-verification.
According to the existential perspective, the cause of burnout lies in people's desire to believe that their lives are meaningful and that the things they do are significant Pines, Higher burnout respondents expect to help the client no matter what, but their subordinate role identities and a lack of support from the companies for which they work make the attainment of this expectation difficult.
This ultimately results in a sense of defeat, unworthiness and failure. Practical implications The research makes a number of significant contributions. As the global service sector grows, competition amongst service firms is likely to increase.
This will undoubtedly result in greater service expectations amongst the public at large and client service employees are likely to be placed under greater pressure by their service organisations. This trend is likely to result in increasing levels of burnout in the industry as a whole.
It is therefore important that organisations acknowledge the part that role identity can play in the development of burnout and actively implement interventions aimed at creating empowered client service identities. The manner in which client service employees perceive themselves in the client service role holds implications for the development of burnout amongst these employees. If they feel powerless and weak in relation to the client, burnout is likely to result. If, however, they feel like knowledgeable experts exercising control and autonomy within the client service role, burnout is likely to be inhibited.
If client service organisations wish to reduce the detrimental effects of burnout in the workplace, they need to pay careful attention to the way their client service employees perceive themselves in relation to the client.
Since client service employees appear likely to construct role identities in response to the dominant client discourse of the organisation, client service companies should exercise caution as to how they define and refer to the client-employee interaction through this discourse.
This can be achieved by referring to client service employees as knowledgeable experts and by allowing them authority and control within the client service setting. Client service organisations should also openly acknowledge the difficulties experienced by client service employees by providing them a platform through which they are able to openly air grievances and client-related concerns.
This should facilitate the creation of a social distance between the employee and the client, which, according to Mills and Moshaviis the most appropriate way for client service professionals to maintain a degree of authority within the client service setting.
Employee-client relationships characterised by psychological attachment, in which service providers attempt to create a warm and comfortable relationship with their clients, tend to elevate the authority of the client and undermine the status of the client service employee. Through the implementation of these recommendations, client service organisations will create an empowered workforce.
This should result in lower levels of burnout and, consequently, increased productivity and improved client relations. Limitations and recommendations As in other burnout research, the present study is also affected by causal limitations. Since both role identity and burnout are subjective experiences, it is difficult to ascertain from the research whether the role identities observed are in fact antecedents to burnout, or whether they are consequences of burnout.
It has been well documented that burnout results in negative attitudes towards one's work, colleagues and clients Leung et al.
Work, Stress, Coping, and Stress Management
The negative attitudes of higher burnout respondents observed during the interviews may therefore be a consequence of burnout. From the qualitative research it can, however, be concluded that the negative attitudes embedded within the role identities of higher burnout respondents inform specific role-related behaviours.
These behaviours appear to contribute to the development of burnout. Further confirmatory research is, however, necessary to establish causality in relation to the relationship between burnout and role identity in the client service context.
Conclusion In this study we have demonstrated how the role identities of client service employees are associated with the development of burnout. By influencing the enactment of role-related behaviours and informing role-related attitudes and subjective perceptions, the client service role identity can either facilitate or inhibit the development of burnout.
Since role identities also incorporate role-related expectations, they carry implications for the self-verification of the client service employee. As was shown through this research, the potential to self-verify is associated with lower levels of burnout. Whilst it is acknowledged that burnout is a complex phenomenon that must be addressed on numerous fronts, service organisations and managers can greatly reduce the levels of experienced burnout by creating an organisation client discourse that positions the client service employee as an empowered partner in the service relationship.
Such a discourse is likely to result in realistic expectations regarding the service relationship and lead to the formation of client service role identities that result in rewarding client service relationships. Acknowledgements Competing interests The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.
University of the Western Cape was responsible for the initial conceptualisation and empirical research, which was executed whilst she was affiliated with the University of Pretoria. University of Stellenbosch made contributions to the conceptualisation and the research design whilst affiliated with the University of Pretoria.
Both authors contributed to writing the manuscript. Social support and emotional exhaustion amongst hospital nursing staff. European Journal of Psychiatry, 19, The effects of perceived management concern for frontline employees and customers on turnover intentions: