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Fighting Burnout With Strengths

Fighting Burnout With Strengths

by Jim Asplund and Corey Tatel

Story Highlights

  • Burnout is one of the most pressing issues facing the global workforce
  • The most common coping strategies for burnout are not always the most effective
  • The best methods for handling burnout depend on employee strengths

Burnout is one of the most pressing issues facing the global workforce: 28% of workers in a Gallup study say they are burned out “very often” or “always” at work. Fighting burnout is something that nearly all workers must do at some point, especially given only 24% of workers report that they “rarely” or “never” feel burned out at work.

Given burnout’s prevalence, Gallup examined employees in our CliftonStrengths database to see if people with different strengths chose different ways of dealing with burnout. Gallup asked over 3,000 employees how they help themselves feel more productive when overwhelmed or frustrated by their job. The coping strategies we asked them about ranged from reframing how they think about their stressors, to engaging in activities unrelated to work, to seeking support from others.

Unsurprisingly, people had various coping strategies, the most common being very consistent with their dominant strengths. However, the most common coping strategies were not always effective, and some employees preferred these ineffective approaches.


The Most Common and Effective Burnout Strategies

People have different ways of managing burnout, using some strategies more often than others.

When faced with situations that increase experiences of burnout, employees most commonly think about how they’ve approached similar situations before (85%), remind themselves that they can succeed in their current situation (84%) or find a friend to talk to or “vent” to (83%). They least commonly look for a way to avoid dealing with their current situation (32%), take a vacation from work (45%) or spend more time with their family and friends outside of work (50%).

Certain burnout coping strategies work better for some than others, but many provide consistent benefits to workers who use them. The most effective coping mechanisms people use involve positively adjusting how they think about or interpret their workplace stressors. For example, when confronted with burnout, the following actions decrease feelings of burnout across all employees surveyed: Reminding themselves they can succeed in their current situation (42% reduction), reframing their current situation as a challenge (41% reduction) and finding positive aspects of their current work situation (34% reduction).

Strategies that involve avoidance or do not enhance self-confidence are less effective. Workers who respond to feelings of being frustrated or overwhelmed by looking for a way to avoid dealing with the situation or lowering expectations of themselves do not experience reductions in burnout.

Check out Prevent and Overcome Burnout: A Strengths-Based Guide to explore more natural coping mechanisms.

Strengths Reveal the Coping Strategies We Rely On

What strategies do employees turn to when they begin to feel burnout at work? The answer may depend on their strengths.

Gallup sorts the 34 CliftonStrengths into four broad categories:

  • Executing. Themes that help people make things happen. When employees who lead with Executing themes feel frustrated or overwhelmed by their job, they are more likely than others to take actions that give them a sense of accomplishment. They tend to return to work as quickly as possible, exercise or engage in physical activity.
  • Influencing. Themes that help people take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard. Employees with dominant Influencing themes who experience burnout often turn to coping strategies that allow them to make an impact on others or the future. They are more likely than others to spend more time with their family or friends outside of work or think about how their work contributes to their future goals.
  • Relationship Building. Themes that help people build strong relationships that hold a team together. Employees highest on these themes tend to reframe their work stress from the perspective of others. They are more likely to consider how others they work with would feel about the same situation or think about how their work affects people.
  • Strategic Thinking. Themes that help people absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions. Strategic thinkers tend to allow themselves the space to think through their frustration when burned out. They are more likely than others to stop and take time to think through their situation or take more breaks during the workday to relax.

The graphic below shows the most frequently used burnout coping strategies for individuals with different strengths profiles. To see which categories you fall into, download this guide for preventing and overcoming burnout.


These strategies vary in their effectiveness. In fact, we have found that many employees prefer less effective strategies than others that are readily available to them.

When was the last time you considered what you do to deal with burnout? Have you ever considered the effectiveness of your approach? This guide explores how our instinctual coping strategies aren’t always what’s recommended, and it provides strengths-based tips for handling burnout as an individual or for organizations.

Be proactive about burnout in your organization.

CliftonStrengths® and each of the 34 CliftonStrengths theme names are trademarks of Gallup. Copyright © 2000 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.

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