• Emilia Lambert

The Prevalence of Entrepreneurial Burnout

Being an entrepreneur is an incredibly rewarding career choice. It is a career that is vital to the development and success of an economy. They drive productivity, inspire creativity, and create jobs. With such great responsibility comes risk, like financial ruin and occupational stress.



Unsplash | Riccardo Annandale


Forbes magazine describes the definition of an entrepreneur as a person who manages any enterprise and who takes a financial risk as a result of the endeavor¹. Understanding the definition and characteristics of entrepreneurs is the crucial first step in discussing the prevalence of occupational stress and burnout in this career.


Entrepreneurial self-efficacy (ESE) is a quality used to help determine who will be a successful entrepreneur. Self-efficacy is a person’s estimation of their ability to perform in a way to achieve their desired goals. This measure represents the amount of confidence they have in their abilities. ESE specifically focuses on a person’s perceived ability to complete the following tasks: marketing, innovation, management, risk-taking, and financial control².


Studies have shown that people who started businesses had higher risk-taking and innovation ESE. This demonstrates the value of this measure at determining entrepreneurial success³.


Entrepreneurial Stressors


There are some occupational stressors for which entrepreneurs are especially at risk. They are experienced differently in entrepreneurs because there can be an additional sense of responsibility associated with organizing or managing your own company. These are referred to as entrepreneurial stressors. These stressors include workload, competing for comparison, demands-of-knowledge, managing responsibility, and resource requirements.


The researchers found that experiencing entrepreneurial stressors was a significant predictor of occupational burnout in a study of 268 entrepreneurs. They found that a sense of responsibility for employee management was the largest predictor of the depersonalization aspect of burnout.


The prevalence of burnout in entrepreneurs


One study compared the rates of burnout amongst three careers with high levels of stress. These three categories included teachers, physicians, and entrepreneurs. The participants took a multi-dimensional personality assessment that demonstrated work-related behavior and experience patterns. The analysis of these results divided the participants into one of four categories: healthy, overexertion, unambitious, or burnout.


The results showed that 45% of the entrepreneurs demonstrated healthy patterns. This healthy pattern indicates that the participants have a good, balanced relationship with their work. These participants show a healthy level of ambition and perfectionist traits while still being able to maintain a sensible separation from work¹⁰. Compared to teachers and physicians, entrepreneurs had the largest proportion of their participants in the healthy pattern category.


38% of entrepreneurs demonstrated patterns of overexertion¹¹. An overexertion pattern indicates that the participants have significant work, willingness to work, and a high pursuit of perfection¹². They also demonstrate difficulty distancing themselves from their work when they are not working¹³. This is significant for entrepreneurs because the work of an entrepreneur is all-encompassing.


The researchers found burnout patterns in 9.3% of entrepreneurs studied¹¹. A burnout pattern indicates that the participant is more likely to resign when faced with difficult situations, difficulty problem solving, and dissatisfaction with their life as a whole¹². 8.2% of the entrepreneurs in the study showed unambitious patterns¹³. An unambitious pattern indicates that the participants are less ambitious and less inclined to put their best effort into their work¹⁴. It is also associated with participants that are less likely to always endeavor for perfection in their work¹⁵. These percentages of teachers and physicians with unambitious or burnout patterns were much higher than those seen in entrepreneurs¹⁶. This finding is significant because it may demonstrate a resilience seen in entrepreneurs due to the unique nature of their work.


Entrepreneurs with the risk pattern of overexertion scored lower in self-confidence and health care than those with healthy patterns¹⁷. This is a significant finding of the study because it demonstrates an area where personal growth can help to resolve overexertion.



Ways to combat the stress encountered as an entrepreneur


  1. Understand what burnout looks like

Having a good understanding of what burnout looks like can help you to combat burnout. The sooner you identify the issue, the faster you can start implementing methods to reduce your stress.

  1. Take breaks from your work

As an entrepreneur, it is easy to never stop working. Breaks, even small ones, are critical to maintaining a healthy balance in your life to prevent burnout¹⁸. Scheduling 10-minute breaks into your day to take a walk in nature or talk with friends can help to reduce stress.

  1. Planning your workday to correspond with your energy level

Entrepreneurs often have long lists of tasks to accomplish in a day. Research shows breaking up your day into periods based on energy level can help reduce stress¹⁹.



Psychology tells us that a little bit of stress is beneficial as it inspires us to do more work. However, stress has a point of diminishing returns. Being able to recognize this point is a useful skill, especially as an entrepreneur. Striking out on your own, though very rewarding, can be very stressful. The best way to help combat this stress is to recognize when it becomes overwhelming and implement some of the ways to reduce this stress.




References:

  1. Nelson, B. (2012, October 04). The real definition of entrepreneur---And why it matters. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettnelson/2012/06/05/the-real-definition-of-entrepreneur-and-why-it-matters/

  2. Chen, C. C., Greene, P. G., & Crick, A. (1998). Does entrepreneurial self-efficacy distinguish entrepreneurs from managers?. Journal of business venturing, 13(4), 295-316.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Wei, X., Cang, S., & Hisrich, R. D. (2015). Entrepreneurial stressors as predictors of entrepreneurial burnout. Psychological Reports, 116(1), 74-88.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Voltmer, E., Spahn, C., Schaarschmidt, U., & Kieschke, U. (2011). Work-related behavior and experience patterns of entrepreneurs compared to teachers and physicians. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 84(5), 479-490.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Schaarschmidt, U. (2006). AVEM: Ein Instrument zur interventionsbezogenen Diagnostik beruflichen Bewältigungsverhaltens. Unter: http://www. psychotherapie. uni-wuerzburg. de/termine/dateien/Schaarschmidt180407_AVEM. pdf (Zugriff: 10. 03. 2012).

  11. Voltmer, E., Spahn, C., Schaarschmidt, U., & Kieschke, U. (2011). Work-related behavior and experience patterns of entrepreneurs compared to teachers and physicians. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 84(5), 479-490.

  12. Schaarschmidt, U. (2006). AVEM: Ein Instrument zur interventionsbezogenen Diagnostik beruflichen Bewältigungsverhaltens. Unter: http://www. psychotherapie. uni-wuerzburg. de/termine/dateien/Schaarschmidt180407_AVEM. pdf (Zugriff: 10. 03. 2012).

  13. Voltmer, E., Spahn, C., Schaarschmidt, U., & Kieschke, U. (2011). Work-related behavior and experience patterns of entrepreneurs compared to teachers and physicians. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 84(5), 479-490.

  14. Schaarschmidt, U. (2006). AVEM: Ein Instrument zur interventionsbezogenen Diagnostik beruflichen Bewältigungsverhaltens. Unter: http://www. psychotherapie. uni-wuerzburg. de/termine/dateien/Schaarschmidt180407_AVEM. pdf (Zugriff: 10. 03. 2012).

  15. Ibid.

  16. Voltmer, E., Spahn, C., Schaarschmidt, U., & Kieschke, U. (2011). Work-related behavior and experience patterns of entrepreneurs compared to teachers and physicians. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 84(5), 479-490.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Barclay, S. J. (2015). BURNOUT, FATIGUE AND STRESS FACTORS IN SOLO ENTREPRENEURS. A thesis submitted at Australian Institute of Business.

  19. Ibid.