Interview With a Superstar


For this week’s show we have a special guest. Some of you might recognize him for his role in popular series such as Quarterly Report or the full-length feature Government Grant Application. He also plays the lead in ever-popular Writer’s Block. Please give a warm welcome to the celebrity that everyone loves to hate: Burnout.

GrantStation: Burnout, you certainly have achieved notoriety in recent years.

Burnout: Notoriety is my middle name. Thanks to the glorious trifecta of stagnant wages, globalization, and corporate downsizing, I’ve been steadily gaining in popularity. A 2018 Gallup survey found that close to half of respondents sometimes experienced workplace burnout, and nearly a quarter experienced these feelings “very often” or “always.”

GS: The pandemic has really catapulted your career to new heights.

B: It sure has. Move over Job Insecurity and Interpersonal Conflict, there’s a new boss in town. By 2020, a whopping three-quarters of respondents to a survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America had experienced workplace burnout and, wait for it… four out of ten people were burned out at some point during the pandemic.

GS: It’s amazing what having a captive audience can do for you.

B: It really is. I mean, my ratings have just gone through the roof! All this time we’ve been wasting with social media—I told my agent that we should have experimented with lockdowns and telecommuting years ago. Let’s not even get into virtual learning. My popularity with the working mom crowd is out of control.

GS: I heard you are also quite the star among those in the grant profession.

B: Proposal writers are some of my favorite superfans. I mean, the social workers and emergency room doctors are great, but I have a real soft spot for proposal writers. They are basically a bunch of do-gooders looking to make the world a better place, so I love knocking the wind right out of their sails. It just really gets me going, you know?

GS: Let’s talk a bit about your image. You are famous for wearing different disguises. How can people identify you, specifically in the workplace?

B: Ah, yes. I’m a bit of a trickster in that way. I think it comes from my obsession with cosplay. But I digress…

I think the critics Leiter and Maslach put it best when they said that I tend to take on three different forms: “an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

But, you know critics… They’re always using those big college words. My fans usually identify me in more quotidian terms—brain fog, fatigue, and lack of motivation are just a few. 

GS: Rumor has it that you are also a bit of a night owl. Always burning the candle at both ends, eh?

B: Yes, it’s part of my appeal. After my stultifying daytime performance, I make my encore in the wee hours, appearing in guises such as sleeplessness, tossing and turning, and late-night doomscrolling. It keeps my fans guessing, and more importantly, keeps them coming back for more. It’s like they can’t get enough of me.

GS: You recently made a splash in the Journal of the Grant Professionals Association. Can you tell us about that?

B: It was the article called “Burnout in the Grants Profession: An Initial Analysis,” which revealed how beloved I am among the do-gooders. My favorite quote: “Burnout is a real, diagnosable syndrome in the grants profession and impacts grant professionals of every sector and experience level at significant rates.” I just love that. Actually, I have it taped to my fridge.

GS: What kind of ratings are we talking about here?

B: Most of the survey respondents exhibited the tell-tale signs of burnout, such as symptoms of exhaustion (84%) or cynicism and distrust related to their jobs (78%). I don’t think even Marilyn Monroe was this popular!

And get this… Burnout prompted 43% of respondents to either resign from their job or take on a new role within the same organization. Now those are some dedicated fans.

GS: To what do you attribute your success with grant professionals?

B: My amazing good looks and irresistible charm. And to give a bit of credit where credit is due, heavy workloads, “deadline-driven, focused” work, and unrealistic goals were commonly-cited reasons. As one of my superfans put it, “The flow of work never stops.” Another felt pressured to “Get all the money you can.”

GS: Are there any demographics you are looking to make inroads with?

Compared to employees, I’m less popular with consultants in the grant profession, so my agent is pressuring me to do some PR with that group.

GS: Why is that?

B: I think my fellow superstar Janet Jackson put it best: Control. Feeling a lack of control over one’s work is a risk factor for burnout, and employees were twice as likely to report these feelings as consultants.

GS: If someone wanted to, um, avoid you, what would you recommend?

B: I would never want to turn away a potential fan. But many of the haters out there have done ridiculous things like taking sabbaticals or negotiating workloads with their superiors.

The more contemplative types tend to pinpoint the type of burnout they are experiencing and work to combat it. If they are exhausted, they try self-care activities such as meditation (boring!) or taking time out for their favorite hobbies (why bother?). If they are cynical, they help others (softies!) in order to improve their own outlook.

GS: Onto lighter topics... What’s your favorite song?

B: “I’m So Tired” by the Beatles.

GS: Favorite food?

B: Chocolate-covered espresso beans.

GS: Any rising stars we should keep an eye out for?

B: Zoom Fatigue has been quite the trailblazer during the pandemic. Another up-and-comer is the lesser-known Languishing. According to the NY Times, “It may be the dominant emotion of 2021.” What do they know? The guy is getting famous for literally doing nothing.

GS: Do you have some parting words of advice?

B: Get back to work!