We’re in the midst of a burnout epidemic. But what if the causes run deeper than just “too much work?” What if the burnout epidemic is as much a crisis of meaning as a crisis of exhaustion?
That’s the argument organizational scientist Amy Edmondson makes in this excellent article by Anthony Wing Kosner in Dropbox’s The Mind at Work series:
“What if burnout has a deeper cause. What if it’s not so much stress as a lack of trust? Maybe it’s not the exploding ‘what’ of digital work streams, but rather the evasive ‘why’ of the work itself.”
“We are seeing a cognitive crisis. It’s often expressed as an emotional crisis, a crisis of burnout,” Edmondson argues. But what she’s observed is that “there’s less burnout when there’s more of a sense of ‘we’re in this together.’”
“Teaming, when it works, builds trust instantaneously out of necessity. What we really need to be thinking about is how collective cognition can come into play—how teams and teaming can help, given what we’re up against. We tend to think ‘it’s too hard and I have to do it alone.’ And that’s just not really viable anymore.”
Edmondson found again and again in her research that groups of people that “had that ‘jointness’ and that ‘problem solving-ness’ in their orientation did better.” She concludes, “shared anxiety is better than lonely anxiety.”