Valpeo Blog

The importance of personal values in preventing burnout

The Riziv in Belgium has calculated that in 2019 the government will have paid out more than 1.5 billion euros in benefits for long-term incapacity for work due to depression or burnout. Burnout is a growing problem in many European countries. And although our governments, company managers and also employees themselves recognise the danger, the search for good prevention measures continues. In his book 'The Burnout Vaccine', Gert Braeken argues that a lack of knowledge of personal values lies at the root of burnout (symptoms). Fabiaan Van Vrekhem, founder of Valpeo, helped Braeken develop a questionnaire that enables people to identify their own values.

Causes of burnout

Gert Braeken believes that a number of statements made by experience experts and academics do not or only partially correspond to his collected data.

According to him, the main causes are not
  • too much work;
  • no balance between work & private life;
  • perfectionism;
  • burnout is not only work-related;
  • only the fault of the person himself;
  • only the employer that is responsible.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review also points in that direction and shows that the proposition that one of the six causes mentioned above is the main cause is incorrect.

The article quotes a Gallup study. Based on a survey of 7,500 people, they came up with a top five of causes that can lead to burnout:
  1. treatment at work;
  2. non-workable workload;
  3. lack of clarity about role at work;
  4. lack of communication and support from the manager;
  5. unreasonable workload.

Unfair treatment is thus right at the top, where unfair refers to the values of honesty and justice, values that are apparently not respected in many cases. According to Braeken, burnout occurs when people in their work and/or home environment are not respected for their motives and personal values. They lack the skills to stand up for their values, where doing so can lower their stress levels.

What are values & their importance

The development of burnout is mainly related to two types of stress:
  • Stress arises because employees' values are constantly being flouted.
  • The second stressor has to do with unpredictability. When, as a person, you are mainly focused on others, on the environment, on the group you want to belong to, the focus is mainly outside yourself. You can never control the other person and therefore they are, to a large extent, unpredictable. That unpredictability is a second cause of continuous stress.

The failure to respect values therefore plays a crucial role. Values indicate what we find important. We are not always aware of our values or why we do certain things, but we almost always use our value pattern when we communicate, when we make a decision, plan or act. Values are the underlying motivation why we do things the way we do. They expose human motivation. They often make us happy or feel good when we operate in an environment where values are in line with our own.

What to do about burnout

How can we better prevent the harmful energy leak that is burnout? By giving individuals more self-insight and skills, but also by raising awareness among employers.

The building blocks of the burnout vaccine are:
  • increasing awareness of your own values;
  • gaining insight into your own personality and temperament;
  • becoming aware of your motives and identifying those that stand out;
  • learning to deal with anger and fear;
  • learning to strongly express what is not in line with your values without losing connection with your discussion partner.

Mapping out your personal values

We have seen that people burn out when their values are not respected. That is why it is important to find out which values are important to you, so that you become more aware of your personal values. The questionnaire that Gert Braeken uses for this has been developed by Valpeo and is based on Schwartz's theory. The value orientation gives a picture of your main motives and primary concerns, of your personal value framework and consequently of the cultural context in which you will come into your own maximally or optimally. The questionnaire contains 57 questions. They provide a first assessment of your personal values.

Valpeo methodology

Valpeo's methodology goes in search of a person’s 'Why', and tries to connect it to companies' values. By paying attention to a person's values and seeing if these fit a company's strategy, you not only have a greater chance of success when recruiting people, but you also reduce the risk of burn-out among those people.

About Gert Braeken

Gert Braeken has been doing applied research into the functioning of employees in companies for 35 years, for various consultancy firms and for many national and international companies and various governments.
  • Ten years ago, at the request of a general practitioner, Gert started having coaching conversations with people suffering from burnout.
  • The insights in his book are a combination of mapping the complex functioning of people in a business context on the one hand and registering the struggle of people with burnout signals on the other.