hw sp 14 5 Since September 1st this year, under Belgian law companies are obliged to take steps to prevent their employees becoming victims of burn-out. Employers need to sensitize their employees and give them the opportunity to talk about this in confidence.

This is the first time the term burn-out has appeared in Belgian legislation. Previously, employers needed measures against violence, harassment and sexual intimidation. Now burn-out completes and complements this list.

However, let’s not pretend that burn-out is a new phenomenon. On the contrary, it has been neglected for years. Here’s why it has come into the open more and more:
  • People talk about it. For example, Erika Van Tielen, the radio presenter, sent a letter to her employer through the media which resulted in lots of reaction.
  • It happens more frequently in companies nowadays.

By comparison, professional life in the eighties and nineties was relatively predictable. Now, various circumstances lead to uncertainty. These uncertainties are fuelled by a wide range of external factors, to name a few:
  • Whether the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989
  • Greater mix of religions in society
  • Natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, ...)
  • Stakeholders aiming for the short term profit
  • Mergers & acquisitions resulting in restructuring (with fewer people striving for an increased output)

All this results in a new adapted behavior. People are striving for perfection, which is expressed through different symptoms:
  • An urge for confirmation. Eg. I have to take care for others-I avoid conflicts-It’s hard for me to take decisions for my own interest-I can hardly say no-I stretch my limits permanently, ...
  • A huge desire to deliver extreme quality-set the bar so high that they become non-responsive-also for relatively unimportant stuff.
  • Low self-esteem : not really satisfied with what I do and who I am-compare myself with others and always having the impression that I am not reaching their level.
  • Control : desire to keep everything under control, eg. difficulties with delegating tasks.
  • Overthinking and dwelling on things.
  • Fears like anxiety, separation anxiety, fear of death, fear, bonding, ...
  • Procrastination.
  • Not being able to make decisions.
  • Taking on too much responsibility: feeling responsible for other people’s responsibilities.
  • Never giving up, by doing this crossing your own limitations/borders.

'As an executive search consultant, I often come face to face with candidates who have reached their limits,' notes AHEAD consultant Caroline Deruytter, herself OCP trained in the developmental coaching of perfectionism. 'As a cry for help, they assume they need another job. Yet in talking to them, I notice that they are dealing with underlying difficulties that will not disappear if they change jobs. These candidates are dealing with a certain behavior. They risk becoming a victim of their perfectionism.'

If they go into overdrive this will lead to burn-out.

In Belgium, thousands of people fall out of the workplace for weeks or months because of burn-out. People who are diagnosed with burn-out stay on average for a period of 189 days at home. The average cost runs to 90 000 EUR.

Burn-out is nourished by the emotional overload created by both work related factors and relational factors ( eg. relationship with boss & colleagues, unfulfilled expectations, disappointment).

'By coaching people with perfectionism I help my coachees not to go into overdrive,' explains Caroline. 'What is perfect? Does it exist? For what is perfect for one is not perfect for the other. Wouldn’t it be better to know that we are striving to deliver quality and accept that it might not be perfect?'

'Personally I strive to be a support for my coachees and help them to drop their backpack filled with the pressure to strive continuously to perfectionism. This is baggage that they are already carrying for years.'

If you identify with this scenario – whether as an employer or employee - and would like more information, please feel free to contact Caroline Deruytter on T. 02 2 223 2390 or via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .