Q: I’m experiencing the classic symptoms of burnout in my job, and I notice this in a lot of my jobs after a while. I start out loving them and then after a couple of years start feeling totally unmotivated. Eventually I get stressed to the point where I dread going into work in the morning and hate my co-workers. I don’t know why I do this. I try to practice self-care and all that jazz, but something isn’t working.
For what it’s worth, I am in a high-stress field, but plenty of other people don’t get burned out.
A: Well, sure. And plenty of people drink kombucha without a full-body revolt (though I can’t see how). But it’s not about everybody else. You’re an individual with your own interests, strengths and challenges. It could be that something in this field — or the stress of it — makes it hard for you to set limits. Or that the work environment itself in terms of people, hours or expectations is something that would wear down most people over time.
But the fact that you love it at first before things go south suggests this could be fixable. You’ll need more insight (perhaps with help) into exactly what’s happening — whether your self-care isn’t as sustaining as you think, the jobs aren’t as good a fit as you hope, or your personality is simply better suited to change every couple of years. (No crime there.)
Q: I recently tried to help a co-worker find a way out of her situation after she complained about her landlord and shady things he was doing. I asked my husband, an attorney, for advice and even found resources for her. I put it all together in an email and I felt really good about it, but she got weird and said I overstepped my bounds. Now I feel really awkward about the situation and she has been acting lukewarm toward me lately.
I was only trying to help and honestly I thought she’d be appreciative. Now she acts like I was invading her privacy when she was the one who brought it up in the first place! I can’t seem to get past the weirdness and my own frustration.
A: For sure, it stings to put effort into helping someone only to find out you offended them instead. I can’t be sure where things went off course here, but if you want to clear the air, I’d recommend addressing it without further delay. You’ll have a delicate balance to strike between groveling with an undue apology versus defensiveness that misses what exactly went wrong in the first place. Start neutrally and respectfully: “I understand I upset you and you felt I overstepped my bounds. I thought I was helping, and I’m truly sorry it came off that way. I know now and it won’t happen again, and I’m really hoping we can go back to how things were.
Dr. Andrea Bonior, a Washington, D.C.-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.”