Narrator: This is Science Today. One of the hallmarks of job burnout is cynicism. Social psychologist Christina Maslach, a pioneering researcher in the field at the University of California , Berkeley , says cynicism often starts as a functional response, but ends too far in the negative direction.
Maslach: It's not just you've had a bad day and you're coming back and you recharge. You don't recharge. When I first started doing the research, I would get a lot of stuff from people in organizations saying, “look, I'm not running a country club, so they're having a bad day – big deal. We're running an organization, we're running a company here and we just got to get to work.
Narrator: But Maslach's research revealed that outcomes of job burnout went beyond simply “having a bad day”.
Maslach: The quality of the work changes; low morale. Absenteeism goes up, turnover goes up. Burnout – it's not just that you have symptoms, but it can be infectious. In other words, if people are working together in a group or as a team, if one is really beginning to have problems, there's this negative spiral that can get going.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.