Job-related burnout in information technology professionals is seen as a serious issue for organizations and individuals. While the substantial body of research on job stress and burnout can provide valuable insights into the prevention of burnout in IT as well as interventions, we argue that drawing upon this work should be done with caution. In particular, generalizability of the learnings beyond the occupations studied (predominantly people-oriented and/or caregiving roles) cannot be assumed. As a first step toward assessing the applicability of existing burnout research to IT, the purpose of the study described in this paper is to understand how IT professionals make sense of and assign meaning to burnout in the profession. The study uses an approach based on social representations theory, which was first formulated by French social psychologist Serge Moscovici. Social representations are defined as the shared images and concepts through which we organize our world. Transcripts from in-depth interviews of 20 IT professionals were content- analyzed and 22 key topics (concepts) identified. Quantitative methods (including analysis of similarity and analyses to determine the relational structure of the concepts) were used to create a social representations map of these professionals’ understandings of burnout. The map provides preliminary evidence of elements that are central/peripheral to those understandings, pointing to implications for the applicability of existing theory on burnout as well as priorities for future research.
Pawlowski, Suzanne; Kaganer, Evgeny; and Cater III, John, "Mapping Perceptions of Burnout in the Information Technology Profession: A Study Using Social Representations Theory" (2004). ICIS 2004 Proceedings. 73.