Some time ago an employee of Burger King in Ohio, U.S., posted a picture of himself on the net stomping with his shoes on lettuce, adding the words:This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King”. 

The employee was tracked down and fired but the harm had been done. Burger King probably lost a fortune in lost customers as a result. It is an extreme case but it demonstrates what harm dissatisfied employees can do to a company.

A recent survey conducted by Gallup in Germany revealed that 67 per cent of employees in the country were just doing the minimum amount of work required, which means that most of them are present at the workplace but not really much more. Only 16 per cent felt they could identify with their company and its goals.

You could argue that they are a pretty thankless lot bearing in mind that many southern Europeans are without a job. However it reveals a deeper problem and doesn’t only affect the employee at Burger King.

Clergymen, self-employed medical doctors and social workers are among the professionals most affected by burnout. The place where we spend most of our “life-time” is supposed to provide the money we need for a living, give us the feeling that we are doing something meaningful and make us happy.

But a job we once chose out of passion and idealism may have changed so dramatically that we fail to realise that it no longer conforms to our inner value system.

The inner stress of spending much of your “life-time” doing something you no longer enjoy doing is going to make you ill on the long run. I started my career in journalism in the late 1970s in South Africa. I spent much of my day in court rooms, fire stations, at crime scenes or at social or political events. Gradually I built up a network of people (“sources”) who gladly passed on information about some local scandal or event. Most of the day was spent inter-acting with people. Most newspapermen from the English language press in South Africa at the time were highly critical of the apartheid government. Within the limitations of press restrictions there was much reporting on the human rights abuses. Most of all we had the feeling that we were doing something meaningful to make our world a better place. These early years in journalism were enormously fulfilling. Its a far cry from what it is today. The media industry has been hit by massive staff cutbacks and drop in revenue. I left my job with a news agency in frustration faced by the prospect of spending most of my day in front of a computer screen regurgitating news from other media sources in a newsroom with several hundred other – “mostly frustrated” – people.

I’ve heard some real horror stories from medical doctors. Hospital and health care structures have become so dysfunctional that doctors and nurses have very little time, if at all, to actually hear out the needs of patients. Instead of “helping people” social workers and church pastors are caught in the tentacles of bureaucracy.

So every now and then it might be worth spending some “life-time” minutes to reflect on whether I still enjoy doing the job I’m doing:


  • Am I happy getting up in the morning to go to work?
  • Does my job provide room for expression and freedom to use all my talents?
  • Am I exhausted after getting home from work or do I still have enough energy to visit friends and family?
  • Do I have to keep on motivating myself month after month, year after year that I’m in the right job doing the right thing?
  • Do I view my workplace mainly negatively and am I surrounded by cynical or negative colleagues?
  • What were the decisive factors that made me choose a specific career? Do these factors still apply today?

Once you reach the stage where you start counting the months and years to retirement you need to seriously ask yourself whether you want to spend precious “life-time” at the place where you’re currently at. Life has so many choices and possibilities. You would not one day want to be sitting in a rocking chair in an old age home full of regrets, mulling over the question:

Why did I not make that change which would have given my life a completely new direction.”

Book: Yield and Overcome: How change can positively impact our lives