The Burnout Paradox: New Approaches from the Field of Positive Psychology

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By Helen Kaye

Burnout first emerged as a subject of research in the United States over forty years ago, but the incidence of burnout worldwide has increased substantially over recent years. Today, burnout is recognized globally as a major concern. Despite the recognition of burnout as a costly and complex challenge to workers’ health and productivity, there is very little understanding of the burnout phenomenon by the public at large. Moreover, despite increasing globalization, and the realities of the multi-cultural workplace, there are very few cross-cultural studies on burnout and positive psychology research on burnout to date has focused on individual, rather than organizational, solutions. This paper’s intent is to begin filling this research gap by analyzing the different predictive factors and paradoxes of burnout from the cross-cultural perspective of France and the United States—two major world economies with distinctly different labor markets—to illustrate the complexity, paradoxes and misunderstandings surrounding burnout. Based on a review of research on the predictive factors of burnout, as applied to the American and French workplaces, a framework of suggested features is presented for creating sustainable and healthy workplaces by applying models and theories from the field of positive psychology. A call is made for further research on the design of workplaces based on these elements. 

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