Friday, November 24, 2006


Dysfunction & NonProfit Burnout or a Balanced Life?
Part III in Burnout Series

by pam ashlund

Choices, choices. Back in a September, '06 post, I started a conversation about fraud prevention in Nonprofit Hall of Shame. A colleague wrote that a significant factor contributing to fraud would be burn-out. This has led me to give a lot of thought to the idea of balance. Not just having a massage or taking a day off, but creating work-home-family-finance-health kind of balance.

In response to my speculations on the causes of fraud, Ken Goldstein proposed a new movement (in his post "Fraud, Burnout and Getting What We Deserve"): "The Nonprofit Selfishness Movement":

We all need to set aside certain times and days to something entirely selfish (and legal). A little "me time" to guiltlessly get away from the stress of constantly being other-focused. Time for our own families, time to take a vacation, and time to recognize our own worth without resorting to embezzling.

With the exception of the adjective "selfish", I whole heartedly agree. Well, one more exception. I used to think we workers (in the "helping" professions) were more inclined to stress than the rest of the business world...but now...I don't think so.

Seems like the general issues of existing in a workplace apply no matter what sector you inhabit.

Today's reading recommendation: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
by Patrick M. Lencioni

The dysfunctions are not what I would have expected:

"Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare."

Lencioni defines the "five dysfunctions" as: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

These human fallibles...might just cause a little bit of stress.

Follow the "Burnout" Series. Want to catch up? Check out these posts:

Part I: Nonprofit Hall of Shame

Part II: Nonprofit Burnout

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1 comment:

janet said...

Talk about your Fab Five------- Lencioni defines the "five dysfunctions" as: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

My only disagreement, and perhaps that is the wrong word, I think it might be more of a refinement, is that items 4 and 5 are aspects of the same thing, But I think we have a preference for odd numbered lists in management theory, and it is always more satisfying to tick items off on all five fingers as we count off whatever bad elements we are itemizing at the moment.

Based upon 25 years in management in all three sectors, I would add that if the gap between the work and the outcome is too great or too long in coming to fruition (especially when that is intrinsic to the nature or design of whatever the work itself may be,) there is very little sense of accomplishment connected to one's hard work. Not only does this uncoupling of the outcome from the work become an explicit source of burnout, it is a critical component in the very same avoidance of accountability and inattention to results in Lencioni's list.

We may not be precisely discussing surplus labor theory, but working only for the paycheck in 2006 in the not for profit sector makes one every bit the wage-slave that Marx described because of the utter disconnection between one’s work and the product of that effort. I submit that this emotional alienation may well be by far the most important factor for employees that do not work directly with clients. These administrative staff members who work hard to keep the organizational ship afloat often suffer the additional indignity of disdain by their co-workers because of their perceived isolation from the “real work” of the agency.

Under these circumstances,
burnout is hardly a surprise.