The complicated struggle to be a support : meanings of being a co-worker, supervisor and closely connected to a person developing burnout
Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis is to illuminate meanings of being a co-worker, supervisor and closely connected to a person developing burnout, and to describe perceptions of signs preceding burnout. The thesis comprises four papers and is based on qualitative data. In papers I and II, the data material consisted of interviews with 15 female coworkers of a person developing burnout, in paper III, interviews with 12 supervisors to care providers suffering from burnout, and in paper IV, interviews on two occasions with 5 people closely connected to a person developing burnout. Thematic content analysis (I) and phenomenological-hermeneutic method (II, III, IV) was used to analyse/interpret the interview text. The findings show that the coworkers retrospectively recalled different signs preceding their workmate’s burnout. They describe that their workmate was struggling to manage alone and was showing self-sacrifice. Co-workers also describe that their workmates were struggling to achieve unattainable goals and were becoming distanced and isolated. Finally, the co-workers describe that their workmates were showing signs of falling apart (I). Meanings of being a female co-worker to a person developing burnout are struggling, on the one hand to understand and help the person with symptoms of burnout, and on the other to manage one’s own work. This burdensome situation means that the co-workers are filled with contradictory and frustrating feelings and when the workmate is finally sick-listed, troubled conscience arise in the coworkers (II). Meanings of being a supervisor for care providers suffering from burnout are struggling to help the care provider continue to work, but being responsible for the unit, the supervisors are forced to ensure that the work is carried out. As the situation proceeds, supervisors are trapped in a predicament, unable to help and feeling inadequate. When the care provider is sick-listed, feelings of self-blame arise. When the time comes for rehabilitation the supervisors are once again caught between conflicting demands in a seemingly impossible mission (III). Meanings of being closely connected to a person suffering from burnout are putting one’s life on hold in order to help the person, striving to stand by to the person developing burnout, regardless of one’s own needs. Those closely connected are saving the face of the person developing burnout in order to protect them from stress. As the situation proceeds, those closely connected carry the burden alone in this strained situation and sometimes they are treated with disrespect by the person developing burnout, a situation which reveals their own suffering. Striving to find recuperation engenders troubled conscience. This situation reveals a huge need for support for those closely connected to a person developing burnout (IV). The comprehensive understanding is that meanings of being a co-worker, supervisor and closely connected to a person developing burnout are, on the one hand, a complicated struggle to support the person and on the other to shoulder a heavy burden. They try to do everything they can to help and support the person developing burnout (II-IV), these attempts, however, do not seem to reach through (I-IV). Co-workers describe signs that something is the matter (I), but they (co-workers, supervisors and those closely connected) do not understand what is happening (IIIV). This burdensome situation is full of conflict for those involved, torn between the complicated struggle to support the person developing burnout and to manage this burdensome situation. Faced with their own shortcomings, troubled conscience arises. The comprehensive understanding of the four papers (I-IV) are discussed and reflected on with the help of social support theories and the ideas of the Danish philosopher Lögstrup’s thoughts about the ethical demand.
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