The Three Types of Burnout: Overload, Underchallenged, Neglect

In the age of the Great Resignation, employers are trying to reduce burnout while employees are fleeing toxic workplaces that have them feeling burnt out.

A study by Deloitte found 77% of people have experienced burnout at their job, and 42% have left their jobs because they felt burned out. 53 percent of women surveyed said their stress levels were higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out.

What is Burnout?

Burnout occurs when professionals use ineffective coping strategies to protect themselves from work-related stress, according to a recent peer-reviewed study on the subject.

What are the Three Types of Burnout?

The study outlines three types of burnout: Overload, Underchallenged, and Neglect, which can manifest in different behaviors and beliefs. You can have varying degrees of burnout and different symptoms of each, depending on your situation.

Overload Burnout

Overload Burnout is primarily defined as a feeling of exhaustion and risking the health and personal life of an individual in the pursuit of good results. The main way these individuals will cope is by venting their emotions. They are highly ambitious and feel they must always maintain high levels of efficacy and productivity at work.

Signs You Might Have Overload Burnout

  • You regularly vent about work to your partner, family, friends, coworkers, or therapist. So much so that many of them say:
    • “You need a break”
    • “If your job stresses you out too much, you should quit”
    • “You need to start looking for a less stressful job”
  • You are physically exhausted and show signs of:
    • Poor sleep and diet
    • Physical discomfort or pain from overworking yourself
  • You try to focus on solving problems you feel you can fix, even if you’re exhausted
  • You’ve sought comfort in religious or spiritual comfort in order to retain a sense of control and maintain hope, meaning, and purpose

How to Deal with Overload Burnout

Overload Burnout is mostly associated with high-performing employees who will push themselves physically and mentally to a breaking point.

The study suggests an effective treatment can come in the form of Acceptance and Coping Therapy (ACT), an action-oriented approach that stems from traditional behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Those in ACT therapy learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward. With this understanding, individuals begin to accept their hardships and commit to making necessary changes in their behavior, regardless of what is going on in their lives and how they feel about it.

Additionally, those experiencing Overload Burnout should focus on their physical health. They likely have been losing sleep and eating poorly due to focusing too much on work.

At work, they should set healthy boundaries with their managers and themselves. This could include having a conversation with management about your current workload, stricter work-hour adherence, and increasing communication about when they are feeling overloaded or exhausted.

Employers should take Overload Burnout seriously, as it can lead to costly turnover and degradation of company culture.

Underchallenged Burnout

Underchallenged Burnout is defined as disengaging with the workplace due to feeling unmotivated or disaffected. It is different from the other types because it centers around avoiding work.

Signs You Might Have Underchallenged Burnout

  • You feel extremely unmotivated or unemotional about your work, you might have described yourself as “quiet quitting
  • When you vent to others about your work, they may reply:
    • “Sounds like they don’t care about you or your work”
    • “You seem to be ‘skating by’ is that what you want?”
    • “You used to be so excited about work, what happened?”
  • You feel cynical or even negatively about your work and management
  • You don’t feel you can “grow” at your current job and constantly dream of another job or being someplace else while at work
  • You dread going to work, either physically or remotely, and feel it physically
  • You have been passed over for promotions or programs, and it has led you to have little faith in upper management or an upward trajectory at work, you feel undervalued

How to Deal with Underchallenged Burnout

As an employee, this type of burnout is especially dangerous, as it is linked with substance abuse to numb feelings. These employees are avoidant, and need to face the reality of their situation.

The first step for an employee with Underchallenged Burnout will be to stop avoiding the situation. The study also recommends ACT therapy for individuals displaying Underchallenged Burnout. They also recommend positive reappraisal, a form of coping that reframes stressful times as benign, valuable, or beneficial. Research has demonstrated that the ability to find benefit from adversity is associated with improved health outcomes.

This means employees with Underchallenged Burnout should stop avoiding the hard conversations with their manager about feeling underappreciated and undervalued and reignite their passion for their job. This may include asking a manager for additional resources, training, praise, or recognition and if there is an opportunity for upward mobility.

Companies and organizations facing Underchallenged Burnout need to assess their employee engagement. If employees are disengaged and avoid work, it is less of an issue of “laziness” than it is of making employees feel valued and passionate about their work. Employees want to feel valued and that their work is making an impact. Instead of implementing harsh repercussions for underperforming, sometimes it may be more beneficial to ask the employee what is happening and if something at work is affecting their performance over personal issues.

Creating a transparent and open company culture will help employees feel empowered to speak up about feeling Underchallenged Burnout. They will feel more comfortable asking for growth opportunities and providing useful feedback to Human Resource departments to improve employee engagement.

Neglect Burnout

Neglect Burnout is defined by the feeling of abandonment and a history of feeling neglected. Employees with Neglect Burnout feel little dedication to their work and may display learned helplessness, due to feeling their work does not contribute to the outcomes of the organization.

Signs You Might Have Neglect Burnout

  • You do not feel your workplace has provided you with the resources to succeed, and you do not believe they will in the future (hopelessness)
  • You have felt abandoned at work and unable to do your job well because of it
  • When you vent to others about your work, they say:
    • “That’s messed up, you weren’t set up to succeed!”
    • “It sounds like they don’t really care.”
    • “They can’t expect you to do well if they keep handling the situation that way…”

How to Deal with Neglect Burnout

Ultimately, Neglect Burnout stems from the feelings of being helpless and abandoned by management. Employees experiencing Neglect Burnout should first acknowledge that they have reached the point of feeling hopeless or helpless.

The study suggests that employees with Neglect Burnout could benefit from ACT therapy, specifically the commitment aspects, which involves taking concrete steps to incorporate changes that align with your values and lead to positive change.

This may mean meeting with your manager and explaining why you feel hopeless or helpless at work and how they can help. Without engaging with management or Human Resources, individuals will continue to feel trapped in their situation.

Companies looking to combat Neglect Burnout need to increase employee engagement, promote resources available, and recognize their employees.

For example, an employee could be feeling neglected at work due to only department heads receiving kudos in internal communications but highlighting individual contributors could lift morale.

Another example includes employees feeling neglected because they do not feel adequately trained or supported. The company could provide guidance on who is the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for certain technical areas of your business, or Lunch and Learn opportunities for continuous training opportunities beyond their first few weeks.


Whether you’re experiencing Overload, Underchallenged, or Neglect Burnout, all are valid and serious concerns in the workplace.

According to the Deloitte study, women are more likely to be looking for a new role than they were a year ago, and burnout is the top driving factor: nearly 40% of women actively looking for a new employer cited it as the main reason.

If you are dealing with burnout and have already engaged with your organization, it may be time to move on. TAKe Brand Consulting has helped women take back control of their careers and provides a safe space and opportunities to find better job options.
TAKe Brand Consulting is also available to help companies looking to increase employee engagement with your employee resource group or organization, contact us today.

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