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Burnout Syndrome and engagement in an employers sample
di Valeria Caggiano, Andrea Bellezza   

La sindrome da burnout è definita come una condizione psicologica di esaurimento e stress, cinismo, inefficacia professionale, riscontrabile in dipendenti e professionisti, e connessa con i bisogni personali.

Al contrario l'engagement, costrutto opposto, è una condizione caratterizzata da vigore, dedizione e assorbimento. In questa ricerca è stato sviluppato uno studio in Roma su 139 dipendenti d'azienda, di età compresa tra i 19 e 43 anni, valutando le relazioni tra diversi costrutti. L'ipotesi è che c'è una correlazione negativa tra engagement e sindrome da burnout, mentre la correlazione è positiva con la realizzazione personale. La metodologia usata è quantitativa ed è stata sviluppata seguendo una strategia metodologica descrittiva. L'approccio avviene mediante survey, con un questionario che presenta da un lato una serie di dati socio-demografici e dall'altro la valutazione corrispondente di engagement e burnout, usando Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) e MBI-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS). Questo strumento individua la sindrome da burnout dalle tre dimensioni che ne fondano il costrutto: esaurimento emozionale, spersonalizzazione e scarsa soddisfazione personale. Esso consiste di 22 item relazionati ai sentimenti e le risposte sono calibrate su scala Likert, con score da 0 a 6. Abbiamo verificato la presenza di una correlazione positiva statisticamente significativa (p <0.05) tra engagement e realizzazione personale. C'è una correlazione negativa statisticamente significativa (p <0.05) tra engagement e stanchezza emotiva e spersonalizzazione. Di conseguenza, ad un maggiore livello di auto-realizzazione corrisponde un maggiore livello di coinvolgimento, mentre un minore livello di coinvolgimento dimostra maggiore stanchezza personale e spersonalizzazione. Di conseguenza accettiamo l'ipotesi che ha fondato il lavoro.

Burnout Syndrome is defined as a psychological condition of human exhaustion, cynicism, and professional inefficacy, evident in professional workers and directly connected with human needs; while Engagement, its opposed construct, is a condition characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption. In this investigation we carried out a study on 139 trade-dependent in Rome, aged between 19 and 43, assessing the relationship between different constructs dimension. Hypothesis is that there is a negative correlation between Engagement and Burnout syndrome, whereas the correlation is positive with personal accomplishment. The methodology used is quantitative and it has been developed following a descriptive methodological strategy. The approach was the survey, a questionnaire, which present on one side a series of socio-demographic data and on the other the corresponding evaluation of Engagement and burnout, using Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and MBI-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS). This instrument assesses burnout syndrome from the three dimensions that makeup the construct: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment. It consists of 22 items related to feelings and the answers are over the Likert scale, with scores from 0 to 6. We verified there is a positive and statistically significant correlation (p <0.05) between Engagement and self fulfillment. There is a negative and statistically significant correlation (p <0.05) between Engagement and emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. Thus, a higher level of self fulfillment corresponds to a higher level of Engagement, while examinees with a lower level of Engagement show greater emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. Therefore, we accept the hypothesis raised work.

1. Introduction

Recent years have found the existence of Burnout Syndrome, known as Burnout Worker Syndrome. It’s in various kind of work environments and also involves worker’s health. On the contrary, there is a disinterest in workers dependent on trade, although this is one of the most vulnerable groups to such syndromes due to their working conditions. The relationship between Burnout and Engagement has been viewed from two different perspectives (Demerouti, Mostert & Bakker, 2010). The first point of view considers them as two opposite constructs, each composed of three dimensions: Vigor (Force) - Exhaustion; Dedication - Cynicism; Absorption - Lack of efficacy (Salanova, Schaufeli, Llorens, Peiro & Grau, 2000).

Figure 1. Two-dimensional model of subjective well-being at work Source: Bakker and Oerlemans (2011).

The other perspective sees them as two separate constructs negatively correlate, whose three dimensions do not behave like the opposite poles of a continuum. Considering Bornout and Engagment as opposite poles of a continuum, assuming the correlation between the three dimensions almost perfect, they could be evaluated with the same instrument, even if it does not happen. In addition, if a worker does not show symptoms of burnout it does not mean his work experience is optimal, so a person with low scores in Engagement does not mean has Burnout. Therefore, seems appropriate to consider that both constructs are independent and can be evaluated using different instruments: often each of them shows different psychological items, one positive and the other negative .

2. Literature review and current state of research

After different analysis of various investigations, related to both syndromes and specific, we can say that some Burnout Syndrome can affect all types of workers, but it is particularly evident in professionals providing services to people, for example: doctors, police officers and nurses (Adriaenssens, De Gucht & Maes, 2015). “Teaching” as a professional experience needs balance between the needing of their work and organizational and personal resources at their disposal, in critical situation chronification can move to work syndrome or Burnout Syndrome (Schaufeli & Salanova, 2014) state; so teachers, and all those involved in higher and social education, constitute a segment with very high levels of Burnout. In another study, Sakurai, Parpala, Pyhältö and Lindblom-Ylänne (2016) uses a sample of 257 teachers from Tokyo University; the  results indicate that teachers with high emotional exhaustion also had feelings of frequent depersonalization than those who felt less exhausted. On the other hand, teachers with low-grade of emotional exhaustion felt greater personal achievement than those who felt emotionally exhausted high and/or medium. In addition, teachers who felt depersonalized in low grade, also felt incompetent in lesser degree. Other occupations, such as police, are also considered in subsequent comparative studies on occupational stress, among the most stressful professions [9]. In their day to day tasks, police officers are constantly subjected to various stress factors such as pressure from their superiors, citizens judgments and violence scenes that may involve them in physical risk (Avanzi, Schuh, Fraccaroli & van Dick, 2015).

Recently, Wagaman, Geiger, Shockley and Segal (2015) studied the factors associated to work quality life and their relationship to the burnout syndrome in 562 workers from health sector. They have been evaluated by the stressors or job demands, perceived social support, the burnout syndrome, various factors of bio-psychosocial health and satisfaction and perceived quality of working life. The results obtained regarding burnout syndrome were as follows: 28.1% of participants had high Exhaustion, 47.9% of high Cynicism, and 42.7% low professional fulfillment. In this study, 60 health professionals were characterized by Burnout. Of these 60, the largest percentage split (12%) was obtained in medical staff, followed by paramedics (10.53%) and nurses (10.19%). Regarding the Engagement, results on an international sample of 25,000 employees from 13 different countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden) show older workers feel more connected  than younger (Schaufeli et al., 2014). This result could be the bias or happy worker effect (“Healthy worker effect”): only psychologically satisfied workers remain in their workplace being happy; those who are not, leave their jobs. Moreover, managers, executives and self-employed score high on psychological linkage; blue collar workers, police and service workers scored lowest. In another kind of empirical work it is also confirmed that employees who generalize positive emotions from work to home or vice versa (this is that they experience a positive balance between work and family) have higher levels of psychological linkage (Montgomery, Peeters, Schaufeli & den Ouden, 2003). This contagious nature (“spill over”) of psychological bonding suggests there could be a process of emotional contagion or tendency to  automatically imitate others emotional expressions, communicated through facial expressions, vocalizations, postures, movements. They conducted a study, which aims to compare levels of Burnout and Engagement in academic students in various courses of speech therapy in a traditional Italian University. With prior consent, we surveyed 220 students enrolled from 1st to 5th year, selected by probability, sampling by quotas. The Maslach Burnout Inventory for students and Utrecht Work-Student Engagement Scale were used. The results show that seniors have a significantly higher emotional exhaustion compared to other courses level. In depersonalization, the fourth year students report a significantly higher level than the second level. In the case of Engagement, no significant differences are in the five different level. Salmela-Aro, Kiuru, Leskinen and Nurmi (2009) presents a study, with the aim of analyzing the Burnout and its hypothetical opposite construct “the Engagement”, in 1284 individuals (33.2% men and 66.7% women) enrolled in the Bachelor of Business Administration in the Faculty of Economics and Business throughout England. In addition to determine which variables affect one or the other and deepen relationships between these two constructs, we study extent that can explain, using different demographic variables, the behavior of students on three psychosocial variables: performance, professional maturity and tendency to drop. In this study analyzing the results found, we obtained 1-A negative relationship between the scales of Burnout, emotional exhaustion and cynicism and Engagement, dedication and absorption; and a positive relationship between perceived competence (Burnout) and the three scales of engagement.

The existence of significant differences in dimensions of burnout and engagement based on sex. Age is the only factor repeated in the explanation of the three psychosocial variables. The scales of Burnout and Engagement differently contribute to the explanation of each of these variables. We conducted an exploratory-descriptive research that aims to a better understanding of engagement and burnout levels in a group of university volunteers involved in outreach projects and volunteers of Mar del Plata National University. The results show a major distribution of volunteers in upper-middle levels of engagement in all dimensions (absorption, dedication and vigor) associated to low levels of exhaustion and depersonalization/cynicism of Burnout.

Meanwhile, Extremera, Durán and Rey (2007) conducted an investigation, focusing the analysis on the relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and the extent to which students are “burned” in their studies (Burnout): vigor levels, dedication and absorption in the tasks performed during their career (Engagement) and their stress levels, on a sample of 371 Andalusian Universities students. Results showed that high levels of EI students were related with lower levels of exhaustion, cynicism, greater academic effectiveness, lower perception of stress and higher scores on vigor, dedication and absorption in the performance of their academic work about one or two weeks before the examination period. In the context of improving learning quality and increasing students psychological well-being, the results point to the need to favour the developing of skills in the classroom as a buffer factor of academic stressors and as a vehicle for greater dedication to learn.

Similarly, Lambert, Hogan, Griffin and Kelley (2015) define burnout syndrome as a psychological condition of exhaustion on a personal level, cynicism, and professional inefficacy, which can occur in workers who directly work in contact with people, while Engagement as opposed construct, is a condition characterized by vigour, dedication and absorption. The above variables were explored by 180 professionals, employees of the American prison system. The results of a questionnaire of 49 items, indicate the presence of a low level of Burnout (n = 10) and a high level of Engagement (n = 170), an average of 42.04 hours and an average working week 8.59 hours per week dedicated to recreation. In addition, 44.4% of the participants would be willing to change jobs.

We found that both clarity and emotional repair are directly related to levels of illusion at work (Engagement). Medium-high levels were found in the burnout components, especially relevant in the case of depersonalization. This means it should pay attention to the incidents factors in this issue as well as explore components could mediate to solve it.

Finally, in the field of sales, Bakker and Oerlemans (2016) try to delve into history the effects on an integrative concept of two opposing called Burnout-Engagement. For this, a study of 107 vendors in different sectors has been performed. The data obtained, given the size of the sample, was analysed by the PLS system. Regarding history, the results show a significant relationship between the conflict of the role and the Burnout-Engagement, the ambiguity of the role and the Burnout-Engagement. As the effects, significant relationships for Burnout-Engagement and satisfaction and Burnout-Engagement and commitment have been noted. The work-family and family-work conflict have not shown a significant relationship with the Burnout-Engagement, as well as the performance. Finally, it has not been able to demonstrate the moderating capacity of implementing policies to reconcile work and family life.

3. Experimental research

General objective

To analyse trade dependent population of Rome relations and differences in the burnout syndrome and Engagement and identify predictors of burnout syndrome and Engagement in these subjects.


There is a negative correlation between trade dependent Engagement and the dimensions of burnout syndrome: emotional exhaustion and depersonalization whereas the correlation is positive with personal accomplishment.

4. Methodology

In this research, methodology used is quantitative and it has been developed following a descriptive methodological strategy. The main purpose is to describe facts and characteristics of a population in an objective and verifiable manner (Corno & Anderman, 2015) research designs in psychology. Within the quantitative-descriptive method, the methodological approach used was the survey, whose main characteristic is the absence of experimental manipulation, so to measure and observe consistent and standardized data for all subjects and to ensure comparability of data. Depending on the type of information or data obtained, and according to the authors, in a cross-sectional design,  data are collected in a period of time to base the study on a particular point in which the measures to treat are so obtained. Finally, the sample used for data collection was not probabilistic or convenience. This type of sampling is characterized by a deliberate effort so to obtain “representative” samples by inclusion in the sample of supposedly typical groups. It may also be the researcher directly and intentionally selected individuals in the population. The characteristics of the sample, the instrument and the procedure that has been carried out to achieve the objectives set at the beginning of this work, are detailed.


The study sample is composed of 139 trade-dependent in Rome. Of them 44 are men (31.88% of the sample) and 94 women (68.12% of the sample), all aged between 19 and 43. Most of dependents work for an outside store with 95.68%, generally having a dependent job with 76.98%. It is 70.80% of contracts of indefinite type. A high percentage with 53.24% make between 24-40 hours a week.


A questionnaire is the instrument used for this kind of study, on one hand a socio-demographic data series (age, sex, marital status, children, position within the company, type of contract, years collected bearing working in the profession and in the current position) on the other the corresponding evaluation data of the Engagement and burnout. To do this, the tests used were:

Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI): The scale used for the same will be the MBI-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) 1996 Gido directed to healthcare professionals. This instrument is the classic version of the MBI (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). It assesses burnout syndrome from the three dimensions that makeup the construct: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment. It consists of 22 items related to feelings. For answers over the Likert scale with scores from 0 to 6. Emotional exhaustion subscale consists of 9 items (11-12-13-16-18-23-24-26-30) and values the experience of being emotionally exhausted by work demands. 54 maximum score. Depersonalization subscale consists of 5 items (15-20-21-25-32), assesses the degree to which each recognizes attitudes of coldness and detachment. Maximum score 30. Personal accomplishment subscale consists of 8 items (14-17-19-22-27-28-29-31), evaluates the feelings of self-efficacy and self fulfillment at work. 48 maximum score. Its reliability for each component is as follows: emotional exhaustion (= 0.75); depersonalization (= 0.74) and personal accomplishment (= 0.70), presenting adequate reliability test- retest.

Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES): this questionnaire has been developed by Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) to evaluate the Engagement from three dimensions that makeup the construct: vigor, dedication, and absorption. It consists of 17 items that evaluate three-dimensional construct. The responses were evaluated using the Likert scale with scores from 0 to 6. The force subscale consists of 6 items (33-36-44-47-49), b.p. When I get up in the morning I want go to work. Dedication subscale consists of 5 items (34-37-39-42), b.p. My job is challenging. Absorption subscale is composed of six items (35-38-43-46-48), b.p. I am happy when I am absorbed in my work.

5. Results

In order to make a comparison and detect differences that are statistically significant, data were obtained from the statistical tests already indicated. To test the hypothesis we made an inferential to know the relationship between engagement and the three dimensions of Burnout analysis: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment. To do this, and working with N> 30, we apply the Pearson Correlation Coefficient.

Table 1. Correlation between Engagement and Burnout Total dimensions.

Burnout Total

Tiredness Depersonalization Realization


Correlation is significant at 0.01 level (bilateral).

Considering the above table there is a positive and statistically significant correlation (p <0.05) between Engagement and self fulfillment. There is a negative and statistically significant correlation (p <0.05) between Engagement and emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. Thus, a higher level of personal accomplishment corresponds to a higher level of Engagement, while subjects with less Engagement show greater emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. Therefore, we accept the hypothesis raised work.

6. Discussions and conclusions

At the end of the Burnout literature, the review highlight, in recent years, the existing interest to study this syndrome in different professions, generally concerning the healthcare field and health. On the other hand, current researches based on new trends, have introduced the study of Engagement concept as opposed to Burnout or the positive aspect of the work. Compared to the cut-offs of literature (SB under less than 25; medium = 25-75 SB, SB higher than 75), the results generally show an average level of prevalence of burnout syndrome in the dependents in our study because the score is 70.26, therefore very close to the high level. While it is noteworthy that for contracting the presence of burnout syndrome, we analyse the dimensions in particular, this found that emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment are placed with a score of 23.79, and 36.64 averages respectively, at average levels. While Depersonalisation with a 9.82 average, is at a high level of burnout. High scores in depersonalization show early burnout, as affirmed by Schaufeli et al. (2014). Because is an attempt to avoid further depletion of energy, employees distance themselves mentally from their work by developing depersonalization or cynical attitudes. By doing this, your job performance is likely to decrease and as a result, may feel incompetent and ineffective. The absence of significant levels of Burnout in this research could be due to reduced work experience of participants, ranking the highest percentages in employees with 3 years of experience with 21.5%, two years 19.4% and one year 11.5%, other 5% do not get old. Regarding the Engagement shows that the total number of surveyed (N = 139), the average it’s at average levels of Engagement with a 4.41 score, very close to the high level. The prevalence of Engagement in each of its dimensions was: Vigour find scoring 4.85, corresponding to high levels, and showing vitality and determination to strive at work; Dedication to 4.34; and Absorption with 4,12, corresponding to average levels, showing satisfaction with the work done, according to cut-off scores of the literature. Therefore, our subjects have high levels of Vigour, and average levels of dedication and absorption. In short, in relation to the level of Engagement workers have a medium-high level of Engagement (4.44), which shows high enthusiasm, inspiration, willingness, commitment, seeking challenges, responsibility for them, generating full satisfaction in working and dealing for different tasks. Given the assumptions and posed at baseline specific objectives, researches show the higher the Engagement is by dependents, the higher  level personal accomplishment is and the lower the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization are, so in the end our first hypothesis (H1).


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