Dimensions of burnout

Maslach et al. (1996) defend three general components of burnout which are conceptualized as three individual scales in the Inventory. Originally, Maslach Burnout Inventory was developed in order to measure burnout in the so called contact professions in which employees’ work involves being aware of and eventually helping to resolve personal problems of the recipients. With that in mind, the scales of the originally developed Maslach Burnout Inventory, Emotional Exhaustion, Cynicism and Personal Accomplishment, were designed to address specific characteristics of the work environment of these professionals, namely the close contact with people and their personal lives and problems which often involved dealing with a range of negative emotions. Later, a version of MBI, the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS) was created for the assessment of burnout in any occupation (Schutte et al., 2000). The scales of the MBI-GS reflect the original three scales but were redesigned, so that the effect of the originally implied idea that burnout results mostly from personal contact between professionals and recipients was removed. MBIGS scales are Exhaustion, Cynicism and Professional Efficacy. Exhaustion refers to the feeling of being out of emotional resources and being unable to give yourself. Cynicism describes an attitude towards work that is characterized by indifference, negativity and depersonalization. Professional efficacy is related to employees’ expectations of their work effectiveness. As a component of burnout it reflects the tendency of an employee to evaluate his/her work accomplishments negatively and is characterized by job dissatisfaction. Scores of the scales are analyzed separately and a total score reflecting the scores of three scales is not calculated. Results on the scales Exhaustion and Cynicism appear to be highly correlated while Professional Efficacy is independent from them. To consider the presence of a burnout syndrome a subject is expected to receive high scores on Exhaustion and Cynicism and a low score on Professional Efficacy. Burnout is thought to reflect one end of a continuum. On the other end is engagement which is characterized by an optimistic and positive attitude towards work reflected in good performance and confidence in personal effectiveness (Maslach et al., 1996; Schutte et al., 2000).