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What Churches Should Know About The Latest Study On Employee Burnout


According to a recent Gallup study, organizations are facing an employee burnout crisis. 23% of full-time employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, and an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job. My educated guess is that those percentages hold for church staff’s as well.

The Hard Costs of Employee Burnout

The Gallup study also identified the organizational hard costs of employee burnout: Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. And even if they stay, they typically have 13% lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss performance goals with their manager/supervisor. Further, employees who consistently experience burnout are two times more likely to believe their job makes it difficult to fulfill family responsibilities, and are 23% more likely to visit the emergency room. In short, employee burnout can trigger a downward spiral in individual and organizational performance as well as personal and family health.

5 Factors That Contribute To Burnout

Every industry has its own unique factors that contribute to employee burnout. Ministry is a caring profession which by definition is round the clock and depleting. Add to that self-imposed expectations as well as those of the congregation, volunteers, and supervisors and you have a perfect storm for burnout. Interestingly, the Gallup study found the main factors that cause employee burnout have less to do with high expectations and more to do with how someone is managed and led. The study determined there were five factors that highly correlated with employee burnout, across all industry groups.

  1. Unfair treatment at work

When employees strongly agree that they are often treated unfairly at work, they are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment can include everything from bias, discrimination, favoritism, and mistreatment by a coworker or executive leadership to unfair compensation and policies, or lack of recognition.

  1. Unmanageable workload

Even optimistic and high performing employees can quickly shift to feeling overwhelmed and poor performance when they drown in an unmanageable and out of control workload.

  1. Lack of role clarity

According to Gallup, only 60% of workers can strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. When accountability and expectations are non-existent or moving targets, employees can become exhausted and demoralized just trying to figure out what organizational leaders want from them.

  1. Lack of communication and support from their leader.

Leader support and frequent communication provide a psychological buffer, so employees know that even if something goes wrong, their supervisor has their back. Employees who strongly agree that they feel supported by their supervisor are about 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.

In contrast, a negligent, incompetent, or condescending leader leaves employees feeling uninformed, isolated, and defensive.

  1. Unreasonable time pressure

When employees say they often or always have enough time to do all of their work, they are 70% less likely to experience high burnout. Unreasonable deadlines, extreme time constraints, and lack of proper planning make burnout inevitable.

But, burnout is not inevitable. You can prevent and even reverse staff burnout in your church by changing how you manage and lead. Aggressively addressing the above five factors that contribute to burnout is a good place to start. But, don’t miss next week’s article, which will further discuss what church leaders can do to reduce staff burnout.

Go to Gallup.com for more information on this survey.


Posted on September 24, 2019
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Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5