• Behaviour

Beating Burnout at Work

An authoritative antidote to executive stress, overwhelm, and burnout


By downloading this resource your information will be shared with its authors. Full privacy statement.

While well-paid executives, working in plush city offices, complaining of burnout, may not get universal sympathy, burnout is real, widespread, and is deeply damaging to individuals and their families. It is also a major cause for business underperformance.

Burnout Immunity

Will the burned-out, or those at risk, be too overwhelmed with their day-to-day or too stressed to stop, reflect, and read this insightful new book? I hope not. Burnout Immunity: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Build Resilience and Heal Your Relationship with Work by Dr. Kandi Wiens, a senior faculty at University of Pennsylvania, boasts an author who has undergone and conquered her own burnout, interviews with amongst others the LA County Sheriff—someone who continually masters extreme stress—and a plethora of research-based practical advice.

Stress and burnout have always been around. In his book The Ends of Life, historian Keith Thomas describes the goals in life pursued by people living in the early modern world. In the relatively undemanding agrarian existence of the 1550s, poverty, warfare, and general brutality were reasons for stress. As our capitalist society developed and people achieved greater agency in their lives aspiration for wealth and position became causes. Today the overwhelming causes of stress and burnout are bound up with the sheer complexity of our 24/7 always-on lives.

Although employees in low-status unrewarding jobs can suffer from debilitating stress, for organizations the loss of engagement and dip in performance from experienced, trained, and talented executives is perhaps the most damaging and avoidable waste. For previously high-performing senior people to feel exhausted, unmotivated, stuck and disengaged is far from uncommon. Excess stress leading to executive burnout can cause serious health problems, alcohol or drug-dependency, a strain on personal relationships, and to ineffectiveness at work.

The basis for the solutions offered by Wiens, has been the discovery through her research, that some professional people, such as the Sheriff, appear to be naturally ‘immune’ to burnout even in the face of seemingly dangerous levels of work-related stress. Looking into this she found that these individuals were coping with stressful work situations and experiences by successfully controlling and managing their emotions. Whatever their role, industry, or experience, the ‘burnout immune’ consistently exhibited a high degree of emotional intelligence (EI). Wiens central message is that the levels of EI required to manage stress at work and fend off burnout can be acquired and learned and are not exclusive to a few immune people. 

With caveats that anyone in a toxic work environment or in a madly over-demanding job should seek an exit, and that some workplace cultures seem to see intense pressure as “an expected rite of passage,” Wiens offers a series of EI-grounded strategies for stress management and burnout prevention, as well as for recovery should burnout have already struck. Accepting that burnout is not down to the individual—but to the job and the organization—she describes how to harness stress for good use and how out-of-control, escalating, stress affects us. 

Her various prescriptions involve recognizing the triggers of stress, and learning to regulate emotions and thoughts—avoiding “thinking traps” and fostering “self-compassion.” She explains why emphasizing purpose, values, and meaningful connections to work can help develop burnout immunity.

In a final section Wiens introduces a 3Rs concept—Recover, Reconnect, and Reimagine. Her recovery advice includes establishing boundaries between work and home life, maintaining social connections, and having some fun. Reimagine is the ultimate goal—to recapture “a vision of your ideal self” and then bring it to life.


‘Burnout Immunity: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Build Resilience and Heal Your Relationship with Work,’ Kandi Weins. Published by HarperCollins, 2024, ISBN 978-0-06-332366-7

Google Analytics Alternative