Little has been published on the subject of giftedness in the workplace and burnout, but I have seen evidence in my practice that adult giftedness and burnout may be linked.
The characteristics of giftedness set gifted adults apart from others. Without proper support and understanding, many gifted adults may not achieve their full potential. For example, they may not pursue or drop out of higher education.
When giftedness is recognized and gifted adults are appropriately challenged, they can be quick to see how things “could be,” which may motivate them to identify and successfully attain their goals.
Combined with tenacity and the ability to focus for long periods of time, gifted adults – when sufficiently motivated — will work extremely hard, often to the exclusion of other activities. This sustained attention for long periods of time can lead to burnout. (Read more about burnout).
In my practice, I have counselled scores of individuals with workplace burnout and have noted that the majority have been gifted. This observation has caused me to ponder whether there is a link between giftedness and burnout.
Recently, I can across the transcript for a lecture given by Dr. Linda Silverman titled “Keynote Address at the “Eleventh World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children.”” In this document, Dr. Silverman noted that “Highly capable people are asked to assume the lion’s share of responsibilities, and life can quickly deteriorate into an endless list of tasks to be accomplished. Gifted people often wear many hats and try to juggle more than is humanly possible. All of it seems interesting and worth doing… if only there was an infinite amount of time. And the gifted set standards well beyond those of others. They’re never satisfied doing a “good enough” job; they want to do everything to the best of their ability.”
I recommend three books on the subject of giftedness in adults and one book on burnout to people who are interested in learning more about these subjects.
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Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta