Leadership to Mitigate Employee Burnout

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There are many leadership theories that are frequently studied/researched. This does not necessarily cheapen or obviate the importance of any of them. We talk about pharmacy leadership in the context of role-modeling professionalism, advancing pharmacy organizations, advancing the entire profession, lobbying politically on behalf of pharmacists, and so on. Different leadership styles can be witness to varying degrees of success in any organization, and those leadership styles will resonate with more or with fewer employees depending upon the situation, the leader/manager in question, and their employees. Poor leadership can have adverse consequences, among them is having discontent and poorly performing employees as well as burnout of these employees. Burnout is thought to result from long-term, unresolvable job stress. It includes exhaustion, quickness to anger, cynicism, closed thinking, and even a sense of hopelessness. Those suffering from true burnout will have lost nearly all incentive to perform and have little to no loyalty for their employing organization.  

Sijbon et al examined the effect of a leader’s goals on employee burnout.1 The study evaluated two styles of leadership. One was a leadership-mastery approach that prioritizes personal effort, learning and experimentation, with placing high value on employees trying hard and becoming involved. On the other hand, leaders with a leadership-performance approach emphasize competence relative to others. By comparing against others, performance approach leaders may implicitly invite impression management techniques. These managers may impose demands that have employees compete for a finite set of resources. The researchers found that leadership-mastery had a LOWER correlation with employee burnout. A recent study particularly among pharmacists saw high levels of emotional exhaustion (one domain of burnout), with the following contributing factors:  inadequate time to accomplish administrative duties, uncertainty of health care reform, too many nonclinical duties, difficult/uncivil pharmacist colleagues, and the feeling that one's contributions are underappreciated.

Pharmacy managers can learn a similar lesson that parents of children do; that comparing or pitting one person against another might not be a wise approach. Doing so can establish a negative culture rife with employee burnout. Pharmacy managers likewise should ensure that clinical pharmacists enjoy the fruits of job variety, a practice site that leverages their education/knowing, and the feeling of appreciation for the contributions they make to the organization.

Additional information about Leadership and Human Resources Management Functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Sijborn RBL, Lang JWB, Anseel F. Leaders’ achievement goals predict employee burnout above and beyond employees’ own achievement goals. J Pers. 2018; doi: 10.1111/jopy.12427.

2Jones GM, Roe NA, Louden L, Tubbs CR. Factors associated with burnout among US hospital clinical pharmacy practitioners: Results of a nationwide pilot survey. Hosp Pharm. 2017;52:742-751.

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California

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Shane Desselle 8 months ago

Have you had a supervisor always having you compete against your own colleagues? It’s exhausting and sews discord.