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Fighting Burnout with Emotional Intelligence

The hidden superpower

Experiencing stress at work can often be tiring and overwhelming.


But when does feeling stressed turn into burnout and what can you do to prevent it?


According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout is defined as follows:


“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and

  • reduced professional efficacy”.

Sound familiar?


Astoundingly, a survey by Deloitte showed that 77% of people have experienced burnout in the role they are in and nearly 70% of individuals feel that their employers are not doing enough to help combat stress and burnout within their organisations.


But don’t panic, there may be a solution. Research has found that individuals with high emotional intelligence are less likely to experience burnout at work and this has been found across a range of job roles.


So, how can you use emotional intelligence to help fight burnout and increase your resilience?


1) Build strong relationships


A study by YouGov, on behalf of Mental Health UK, found that poor relationships and feelings of isolation were two of the top 9 factors contributing to employee burnout. Research has shown that people who have a good support network are more likely to be happy, healthy and live a longer life.


Interpersonal relationships are key to developing emotional intelligence. Having strong relationships with others that are built on trust and compassion makes it easier to reach out when we need help.


Start with a simple step - ask your colleague if they would like to grab a coffee sometime.


2) Manage stress effectively


In the moment, it may seem that every problem and hurdle is unmanageable. In fact, a recent survey showed that 1 in 5 UK employees felt ‘unable to manage pressure and stress levels at work’. Individuals are increasingly overwhelmed, which leads to a drop in productivity and increases the chance for absence and high turnover.


Having effective coping strategies and remaining positive in the face of setbacks is an important component of emotional intelligence. Being optimistic means accepting the present and being hopeful for the future.


Make note of what is causing you stress – Is it within your control? How have similar situations worked out for you or others in the past? What can you do differently next time?


3) Stay motivated


What makes you passionate about your job? The freedom to be creative? The responsibility? The people? The longer individuals are in their role, the more likely they are to forget what motivated them to be there in the first place.


Engaging in continual self-improvement is essential for building emotional intelligence. Individuals who make time for personally relevant, meaningful activities at work are more likely to feel passionate about their job and stay motivated through difficult times.

What do you enjoy doing? Take note of the things that motivate you at work and make time for the activities or tasks that give you satisfaction.


Understanding how your emotions impact your work can help you to manage stress more effectively and prevent you from experiencing burnout. You can learn more about emotional intelligence here.


Want to become an expert in emotional intelligence and help your employees manage their emotions better? Find out more about our EQ-i 2.0 & EQ 360 Certification course here.




WHO (2019) Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases


Mental Health UK (n.d.) Burnout. Mental health UK. https://mentalhealth-uk.org/burnout/


Mental Health (n.d.) Guide to investing in your relationships. Mental Health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/publications/guide-investing-your-relationships


MHS Staff. (2011). Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0 (EQ-i 2.0) Technical Manual. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems Inc.


Gong, Z., Chen, Y., & Wang, Y. (2019). The Influence of Emotional Intelligence on Job Burnout and Job Performance: Mediating Effect of Psychological Capital. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2707. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02707

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