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Burnout in Poland, Croatia and Slovenia desk research 2019/2020

In 2019 Burnout Aid project was initiated via Erasmus+ Programme by
three non-governmental organizations: Culture Shock Foundation from Poland, Common Zone from Croatia, and City of Women from Slovenia. The aim
is to explore the specificity of burnout phenomenon in non-governmental
organizations in our countries in order to deliver online support to counteract
and prevent it from developing. Desk research has been the first stage of the
project. In each of the three countries we looked for data on burnout, so that
we could analyze:

  • the current state of research on burnout
  • the presence of burnout-related issues in public discourse
  • occupational/activist burnout in the third sector

The term „burnout” was first introduced by the American psychologist
Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1974. He studied burnout among alternative institutions staff and wrote: “The dictionary defines the verb »burn-out« as »to
fail, wear out, or become exhausted by making excessive demands on energy,
strength or resources«. And that is exactly what happens when a staff member
in an alternative institution burns out for whatever reasons and becomes inoperative to all intents and purposes.” (Freudenberg 1974). He also enumerated
signs of burnout: physical (feeling of exhaustion and fatigue, being unable to
overcome a lingering cold, suffering from frequent headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances, sleeplessness and shortness of breath) and behavioral
(instantaneous anger, irritation and frustration responses, finding it difficult to
hold in feelings, suspicious attitude, risk-taking behavior due to overconfidence,
excessive use of tranquilizers and barbiturates, rigid, stubborn and inflexible
attitude towards others, totally negative attitude that gets verbalized, look
and action that seem depressed, spending more and more time at work, while
being less and less effective).

Slowly but consistently, however, burnout in NGOs is ceasing to be a taboo subject – first studies are being conducted, support groups are being created, but this is only the beginning of the process of raising awareness. The Burnout Aid project is an attempt to fill this gap. Desk research was its first stage, the next one is a qualitative study on the problem of burnout in NGOs. Next, we want to use the gathered knowledge to create an online platform with tools helping to identify symptoms of professional burnout and offering solutions (e.g. scenarios of workshops for NGOs) for leaders, employees, volunteers and organizations – for NGOs.

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.