Continuous change, organizational burnout and HR’s role

Gary Rees, Sally Rumbles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Within the last three years, the global economic crisis has prompted unprecedented change, with organizations traditionally considered as “solid”, crumbling and liquidating in front of incredulous stock brokers and global audiences. Within the UK, unprecedented numbers of job redundancies have rocketed and expanded the unemployment pool. Financial institutions in Europe are now undergoing “stress tests” in order to establish which financial institutions are “dangerously vulnerable and need to be strengthened, or even taken over” (BBC website, 2010). The essence of these stress tests is to assess whether banks are able to survive future economic shocks. There is no such equivalent “test” for organizations when it comes to ‘organizational burnout.’ The concept of burnout may associate itself more readily with stressful occupations, such as nursing, fire and rescue, etc., and sometimes associated with individuals and personality types (e.g. Friedman’s Type A and Type B personality). If we consider a definition of burnout hinging around emotional exhaustion resulting in the inability to carry out specific tasks or functions, then how can organizational burnout be defined? Perhaps the point at which an organization has reached saturation (Marks 2003), or at the point of inflection, and where performance, output, efficiency etc. plunges dramatically, equating to organizational exhaustion. Change is certainly not a new topic of debate. Results from a survey of over 1500 executives involved in a wide variety of change initiatives indicated that only 38% thought these initiatives were successful, and only 30% thought they contributed to the sustained improvement of their organizations (Erwin and Garman 2010). To what extent are organizations changing for change sake? Added to this is an organization’s inability to cope with change, which can then lead to individual and organizational burnout. One important question to address is whether corporate decision-makers really care about employees and are content with pushing performance to its maximum point, to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of its workforce.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)16-19
    Number of pages4
    JournalHR Bulletin: Research and Practice
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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