Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0379, Feb 2, 2009

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Working in front of groups can be hard work. People who do it all of the time either get energized by it or exhausted. It seems that different people respond in different ways to the challenges of their work. What is it about this work, or any work for that matter, that can cause burnout in some and not in others? We explore that question in this week's article Why are You Burning Out? We also include a Burnout Self-Test from our friends at to help you prevent this condition.

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facilitator questions

The Point

Why Are You Burning Out?
Get the difference between giving too much and giving from the wrong place.

Group Dynamics Skill

I recently read a fabulous little book written by Parker Palmer entitled, Let Your Life Speak. Of the innumerable insights I gleaned from this book, there was one in particular that I thought would be of particular interest to my facilitator colleagues. It has to do with burnout.

While I've not directly experienced clinical burn out, I do know the feeling of being exhausted by work on some occasions, and invigorated on others. I've also heard from many people, mostly those in the "helping" professions, who have been stricken by this malady. While we tend to think that burnout comes from simply working too much, too hard, for too long, I concur with an alternative viewpoint Parker offers in his book.

Parker points out that it's not how much we give that burns us out, it's the place from which we're giving that makes the difference: "Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not results from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place."

He goes on to say that when what we give is part of who we are, "integral to our own nature," then there is no effort involved. Just as an apricot tree doesn't tire of giving its fruit, gifts that are a natural outpouring of who we are are natural and self-renewing. But trying to get an apricot tree to yield apples is quite another matter! "Only when I give something that does not grow within me do I deplete myself and harm others as well, for only harm can come from a gift that is forced, inorganic, and unreal."

I do feel exhausted when I'm doing something that isn't me, or if I do it in a manner or in a quantity that is misaligned with my quiet inner prompting. So here's a test for you. Answer the questions in the burnout tool below to see if you might be heading off in the wrong direction.


Using the Tool

There are two easy ways of using the test. Either work through the table below on paper and calculate values manually, or download the template here and fill in values appropriately on the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. This will automatically calculate scores for you and interpret these scores, showing the score and interpretation in row 30. To use this technique, either work through the template or print off and work through the table below.

Checking Yourself for Burnout

For each question, put a tick in the column that most applies. Put one tick only in each row.

Not At All
Some times
Very Often

Do you feel run down and drained of physical or emotional energy?


Do you find that you are prone to negative thinking about your job?

Do you find that you are harder and less sympathetic with people than perhaps they deserve?          
Do you find yourself getting easily irritated by small problems, or by your co-workers and team?          

Do you feel misunderstood or unappreciated by your co-workers?


Do you feel that you have no one to talk to?


Do you feel that you are achieving less than you should?


Do you feel under an unpleasant level of pressure to succeed?


Do you feel that you are not getting what you want out of your job?


Do you feel that you are in the wrong organization or the wrong profession?


Are you becoming frustrated with parts of your job?


Do you feel that organizational politics or bureaucracy frustrate your ability to do a good job?


Do you feel that there is more work to do than you practically have the ability to do?

Do you feel that you do not have time to do many of the things that are important to doing a good quality job?          

Do you find that you do not have time to plan as much as you would like to?

Total of weighted scores (see instructions):

Scoring Key

Score 1 for every tick in the “Not At All” column, 2 for every tick in the “Rarely” column, and so on up to 5 for every tick in the “Very Often” column. Add up your total and check your result using the table below.

If you choose to use the manual method, then calculate the total of the scores as described in the instructions (note that this uses a slightly different scoring method from the spreadsheet). Apply the score to the table below to get the interpretation:

Score Interpretation



15 – 18

No sign of burnout here

19 – 32

Little sign of burnout here, unless some factors are particularly severe

33 – 49

Be careful - you may be at risk of burnout, particularly if several scores are high

50 – 59

You are at severe risk of burnout - do something about this urgently

60 - 75

You are at very severe risk of burnout – do something about this urgently


To use the tool, fill in the table above and score appropriately, or download the template here.

This is an excerpt from the “Avoiding Burnout” module of our Stress Management Masterclass. The rest of the Burnout module:

  • Helps you to identify burnout pressure points so that you can defend what you enjoy about your job.
  • Shows you how to avoid burnout if you are at risk of it,
  • And talks you through recovery from burnout if it has already occurred.

© Mind Tools Ltd, 1995 – 2004


Are you concerned about burning out in your work? Take the test above to see how you score. Get the help of a friend or coach to help you make some course corrections. A lantern without oil is of no use to anyone. If I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to send me your questions or concerns by replying to this email.

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