“Generosity Burnout” Is Real And It Can Hold You Back At Work

Kirstie McDermott exposes the toll of generosity burnout on women in the workplace.

If you feel wiped out by work, the chances are, if you are a woman, that your exhaustion is due to more than your daily task list.

Australians are already scoring poorly when it comes to work stressors. A McKinsey report has discovered that Australian workers have reported the highest burnout rates in the world, with 61% saying they sometimes felt burned out.

It’s no surprise then that many workers are overwhelmed, suffering from a reduction in their productivity, leaving them feeling hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing left in the tank––and these negative effects also impact your life outside of work, too.

Compassion fatigue is a known side effect of burnout, where your ability to empathise with your colleagues and help them in the way they may need it, is compromised. And for women, another factor that adds to their exhaustion and disillusionment with work is a phenomenon called generosity burnout.

You’ll already know about it, because when it comes to the workplace, it is women who are disproportionately expected to pick up the slack on what a study from the Nature journal calls non-promotable tasks (NPTs).

Although this work matters to an organisation, the study says, it brings no external reward or recognition to the individual who does it. These are things many women will be familiar with: the pressure to organise birthday cakes and gifts, or team social events, for example.

Studies find that women, regardless of their role or industry, take on the bulk of NPTs. Data shows that female academics, engineers, lawyers, architects and supermarket clerks all spend more time on NPTs than their male colleagues do.

This is frustrating, because the role of helper is societally expected of women, and so it can also easily become a default in the workplace. But more egregious is the fact that despite the fact that these actions contribute positively to the workplace, and take up time, they are not factored into compensation or promotion conversations.

It is no surprise then that many women in the workplace are simply fed up and feel taken for granted. Generosity burnout is the ultimate expression of this, and eventually, women start to just say no.

We all know the expression, “No is a complete sentence”, but in the workplace that rarely flies. It can be really difficult to offer a refusal without some sort of caveat. You could suggest that as you organised the last team-building event, you’d like to pass the baton. Or, you could plead your workload as a way of passing on an annoying, non-work-related job.

Ultimately it is up to organisations to identify this behaviour, and understand and recognise that NPTs are disproportionately falling on the shoulders of its female workers. Companies can look at ways to address this in ways such as allocating tasks fairly, ensuring that one person doesn’t do more than another, and making sure the gender split is fair.

If you are finding that you’re shouldering more than your fair share of birthday party whip-arounds, then you could consider a job at a company where you’ll get to do more of the actual work you enjoy. The Professional Beauty Job Board contains thousands of open roles, like the three below.

ModelCo is looking for a Digital Performance Manager in Sydney. In this role you’ll be creating and managing the performance strategy (SEM, social and affiliate), setting up and launching all paid activity with ongoing optimisation of campaigns, and analysing campaigns and data, making insightful recommendations to improve campaign performance. Plus, you’ll work collaboratively with Social Media & Marketing teams to create paid content and will brief the graphics team on all creative in a timely manner.

Blush Beauty & Skin Salons in Queensland is seeking highly motivated Beauty and Skin Therapists With exceptional customer care and experience in all areas including IPL, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and skin needling. You should have a Diploma of beauty therapy or higher, and at least four years’ prior experience in the industry.

Or, explore this Brand Marketing Coordinator opportunity at Mecca. Here, you will support the execution of the yearly campaign calendar by ensuring that all marketing promotions and activities are developed to meet the needs of customers, brands, categories and business goals. You should be creative, practical, and a positive thinker who is energetic, enthusiastic and proactive, and in possession of a tertiary qualification in marketing, communications or similar.

Browse all available opportunities on the Professional Beauty Job Board.

This article was produced in partnership with Jobbio.

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